LAWRENCE ENGLISH – APPROACH
Lawrence English‘ large body of works covers many areas of electronic/experimental music and field recordings. His work “explores the politics of perception and prompts questions of field, perception and memory. His compositions occupy a unique position where acoustic and electronic sources share similar textual and timbral qualities, blurring the nature of the source and creating a relative sonic tabula rasa.”
His latest album, Approach, is heavily inspired by – and a kind of soundtrack to – Yoshihisa Tagami‘s manga Grey. The first Manga that Lawrence English bought as a 13-year-old boy, and also one of the first that was translated and distributed outside of Japan. Lawrence has a deeply personal emotional connection with the story and with the main character Grey, ‘as laconic and often unlikable as he might be’, because of his ‘rejection of societal expectation and his refusal to accept the immobility of systems and social codes’.
For some context: here is a bit of the story’s premise (taken from Wikipedia):
“The world is covered in wastelands that are dotted with numbered “Towns”. All Towns are supervised by computers called “Little Mamas” (nodes connected to the world governing super-computer called “Big Mama”); the underprivileged live in the slums and are referred to as “People”. One can only become one of the privileged “Citizens” by joining the army and fighting the other Towns’ forces, as the Towns are continually at war with one another.”
I’m not familiar with Grey myself (or with Manga in general), so I cannot relate the sounds on this album to the original story. But even then the sound on this album has quite a deep impact. The dystopian context can clearly be felt: the waves of sound are overwhelming, physical, and almost violent sometimes.
This material needs a good sound system – and a dedicated listening setting – to be enjoyed in full, and then it will drag you in like a black hole would. Even without the context of Grey, it is a haunting 44-minute sci-fi trip you will not easily forget.
The album is divided into 12 sections, probably referring to chapters of the original Manga. But as can be expected, they are carefully sequenced and should be enjoyed in one go from beginning to end for maximum effect. (Two additional edits/extractions of First Encounter and Shidara are added to the download).
HAARVÖL & XOÁN-XIL LÓPEZ –
THE UNCANNY ORGANISATION OF TIMELESS TIME
A bold statement in the liner notes: ‘There is no progress in art’. (I personally would have added an exclamation mark).
This is followed by some philosophical musings about the relationship of art with time, and ‘with its time.’ And about the fact that the ‘sounds we hear on this album are grouped in a harmonious relationship’, are ‘a deliberate escape from the linearity of chronological time and the appetite for another, imaginary time, which allows for the most diverse and strange associations.’
Sounds somewhat pretentious and difficult to grasp perhaps, but don’t let that put you off. After all, the most interesting ‘ambient’ music should make you lose track of time. And, above that, may also reveal an uncanny yet familiar strangeness.
The music on this album consists of improvisations on an Iberian pipe organ built in 1801, played by Xoán-Xil López, in a sonic dialogue with the electronics and field recordings performed by Haarvöl: Fernando José Pereira and João Faria.
The four tracks on this album all ‘contain a certain degree of familiarity that is simultaneously undermined by an inherent strangeness’, demonstrating what Freud meant with his notion of ‘unheimlich’. But you’ll probably feel that ‘familiar strangeness’ even without reading the liner notes.