CD Reviews

Friday 18th November

November 19, 2011

Tomorrow morning I am getting into my car and driving up to Huddersfield for a couple of days to take in the beautiful sights of such a lovely city (cough) but also to attend a few concerts. I am going primarily to see the fromScratch event, a performance by the Basel Sinfonietta of music inspired by the Scratch Orchestra, but I also intend to see one or two other things that perhaps I wouldn’t have thought have attending normally, just because I will be there, and the events will be on. Its always nice to try something new and see if it fits. Today I tried Irish Cream Liqueur. It didn’t fit, but you can’t always win I guess. Anyway, this evening, despite being so tired/delirious that my opening paragraph made absolutely no sense, I have managed to listen to a CD and so will begin a review proper in the next paragraph…

I wrote about a week ago about one of several new releases I had received on the SubJam/KwanYin label’s Mini Kwanyin offshoot. Since then I have been listening a lot to another disc in the series, often just before falling asleep late at night. The Cdr in question is a new release by the Austrian laptop/ other bits and pieces musician Tim Blechmann named Timbre. Now I have written very fondly about Blechmann’s music before. I have always felt a real affiliation with his music, both solo and often in duo collaborations. he has a very particular, focussed sound that, if described simply could probably be described as droning in nature, but in fact, to me at least, has many interesting properties beyond its ability to flatline out. For this release, Blechmann uses a laptop, but also two “structure-borne drivers,” two microphones and a drum. I am not sure what a structure-borne driver might be, but I am guessing it is something that creates physical vibrations from a computer signal, so that the head of the drum is allowed to rattle. I may be wrong however, not that it matters.

Like other pieces I have heard from Tim Blechmann, the music on Timbre develops very slowly. The disc opens with a very soft grey roar, perhaps like one you might hear if dragging one smooth concrete paving slab across another very slowly. There is something both earthy and also industrial about the sound. There are similarities to be heard with the dull groan of the power station I live nearby here, and I have often wondered if my enjoyment of Blelchmann’s music has some link to my longstanding relationship with this sound. There is a sublet difference to be heard here compared to his other releases. Somehow there is more of an urgency there, a slightly more hurried feel, a faintly higher pitch perhaps. The roar doesn’t remain the same however, but gradually builds, layers, pulses slowly and shifts slightly in form as it thickens and increases slowly in volume. I rarely enjoy droning music much, but when I do, with Blechmann’s music similarly to Eliane Radigue’s I find myself lost in it, picking up on the slightest changes, shifts in texture.

A little after ten minutes in and we hear a sudden addition to proceedings, a brightening of the music’s colour slightly as the sound becomes slightly bolder and richer, I can’t quite explain how, and there is a sudden. quiet strike at the drum, a single, almost imperceptible hit. This begins a period through which the rough, scratchy rattling of the drum appears, at first very slightly, but gradually, as the laptop sounds deepen and become louder and more ominous, they start to give the music a sinister edge. A bit like the way a speaker system might rattle when it is pushed to the edge with bass tones, the brittle, slightly uneven drilling sounds here give a different edge to the music, something more physical and tangible placed against the gassy digitally rendered sounds. The piece continues, with the intensity gradually building until the music bristles with almost pneumatic drill insistence before calmly deconstructing itself over a minute or so and coming to a halt.

Timbre is a very simple work, but for me a piece of music of great beauty, a kind of almost classical forty-two minute crescendo made of the most carefully matched elements. It is, on a quite basic level just something very nice to listen closely to, immerse myself in, feel the subtle changes scream out at me. I’m not sure how much of the piece was improvised, but I would suggest that the basic concepts at least were pre-planned, then executed in real time. This one is all about the chosen sounds for me, and the slight shifts throughout that feel like enormous leaps if you listen up close. It isn’t a piece of music that leaves me thinking a lot, and it isn’t music that challenges my sensibilities a great deal and needs work for me to find a way into it- I connect with this music immediately. Physical, stirring stuff then, another solid work from an underrated musician. Available here.

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