MICHAEL BEGG – SONAMBULO
If I should describe the music on Sonambulo in one word, I’d probably choose ‘mysterious’. Every single track has its own enigmatic atmosphere, and Michael Begg is able to create that atmosphere using only seemingly sparse instrumentation in most of the tracks. Minimal means to maximum effect.
Sonambulo means ‘Sleepwalker’. It is a fictional character from the American independent comic book series of the same name created by Rafael Navarro. But here, the music on this album is inspired by (/dedicated to) Leonora Carrington, a British painter ‘closely aligned to the Surrealist movement who settles in Mexico soon after the Second World War. The people of Mexico accorded her a degree of admiration and respect only now starting to be echoed in her native Britain.’
The music was created and performed during a Mexico residency in December 2018, as part of a three-year collaboration between the UK and Mexico.
If Leonora Carrington’s paintings are described as ‘surrealist’, Michael Begg’s music is a perfect match. Sometimes it sounds like the soundtrack of a surrealist horror movie, at other moments it is more peaceful and quiet, but there’s always a veil of mystery, a subtle glimpse of the unknown. And the surrealist level seems to increase with every track.
Part of this mysterious atmosphere must come from the place where Begg stayed during his residency and the way he worked:
“Through meditation, and surrealist techniques including free-association, automatic writing, juxtaposition and pursuing the logic of dreams, I endeavored to place myself at the alchemical table of Leonora, surrounded by moths, and steam, whilst impossible beasts, hags, witches, sooth-sayers, mutated archetypes, and psychic golums ebb and flow through walls and shadows.”
You can literally hear the moths flying around your head in 999 and Leonora’s Room (Ab Eo Quod).
In terms of painting, this is music with an almost Bruegelian quality – though when using painter’s names Leonora Carrington would, of course, be more to the point.
ZEGER DE VOS – CARRIERS
Zeger de Vos has taken his time to release the follow-up to his debut Expired Sceneries from 2016, but that does not mean he wasn’t working on his music: he continued performing with his modular synths on many occasions. The impact of these experiences can be heard on his new album Carriers: some of the tracks are built on patches from these live performances.
Carriers is ‘a celebration of sound’ combining instruments, field recordings, and sound synthesis into engaging ‘virtual worlds that offer space for contemplation, meditation, transcendence, and sensations of the sublime.’
Do not make the mistake to think that this is ‘easy-listening meditation music for everyday use’: de Vos is not afraid of using rather unorthodox sounds in his detailed soundscapes.
This album is not inducing half-sleep but is definitely more suited for active listening.
Preferably with your eyes closed which will open up hallucinatory visions of “spaces to be heard underwater, in the hidden worlds of materials, or overgrown by glitchy electro-magnetic textures.”
NYMPHALIDA – ASSENZA
I’m afraid I cannot tell much about the background of Pietro Bianco, apart from the fact that he is the one behind the Nymphalida ambient music project that previously released two albums since 2013 (both released on the Psychonavigation label).
Ánd that he is a classical guitarist from Sardinia …
On Assenza (Absence) his soft and restrained atmospheric guitar playing is embedded in immersive ambient soundscapes, and the combination feels like a warm bath. But it’s not just the guitar immersiveness (in fact the track Nubi Di Cenere is the only track prominently featuring his guitar playing) – Threnos features a melancholic piano theme, while Via Del Ritorno is quite dark and haunting in nature. Assenza presents a comfortable (40-minute) ambient set that may not be too revolutionary but is comfortably reassuring in its own way.
Assenza is released on Sounds Against Humanity – a small label from Northern Italy focusing on minimal, drone, experimental, sound art, etc…