CD Reviews

Tuesday 29th November

November 30, 2011

Bleuuurgh. At work until ten tonight, an eleven hour shift, so more than a bit tired this evening. Still, I promised a full week of reviews, so here we go. Tonight’;s disc is a release on one of my favourite labels, L’innomable, the longstanding Slovenian label, whose owner, Luka I finally got to meet after many years of correspondence when he visited London recently, and he pressed a copy into my hand. The CD in question is a new one from the incredibly versatile musician Ferran Fages. I have long lost count of the number of ways that Fages makes music. I have CDs involving him playing acoustic turntable, laptop sine waves, who knows what else and of course his semi-melodic guitar works. This new disc then, named Llavi vell is quite different again, with Fages’ credits listed as- “composition, acoustic guitar, contact mics and speaker”. What it doesn’t sound like, in any way at all, is an acoustic guitar. Neither does it sound remotely like anything I have heard from Ferran in the past, but then that isn’t a surprise.

What we actually do hear then is one, long, relentless forty-four minute track of dense, writhing swarms of what sounds like bowed strings. From the very outset, when the music starts straight off in fully realised form, through to its conclusion, the thickness and richness of the sound remains the same. I’m not sure how this music was created, but I sense that there is some kind of process at work here. Perhaps Fages bowed the strings of the guitar and then allowed the sound of this action, picked up by the contact mics to, in some way multiply and merge from the speakers as a stream of separate sounds. Perhaps there is some overdubbing at work. I’m not at all sure, though it doesn’t really matter. The sleeve notes recommend that the music be listened to as loud as possible, and at the weekend I did manage one play through at high volume, so high that it alerted the neighbours cat anyway. Certainly the music benefitted from the increased volume somehow. There is a vague feeling of noise music here, but without any of the harshness and with enough transparency to the music to be able to hear many small elements happening together, or with very slight delay. There is a definite physicality to the music, actually not unlike what you may hear listening to something like Monteverdi turned up to eleven, a feeling of massed elation, a relentless assault of glowing, swelling sounds piled up on top of one another.  The music on Llavi vell does remind me of other things I have heard, the more dense compositions of Otomo Yoshihide’s Cathode groups being one reference point, but this is certainly a new and fresh approach for Fages. Listenign at volume for a long time, concentrating properly, is a bit of an odd experience. The wall of sound feels constantly alive, swaying and bulging rather than remaining solid, and listening intently deep into the music tends to be a bit like staring into a deep rushing river- so much of what we hear / see doesn’t seem to change, but the details that flash past are each quite beautiful on their own, yet when all linked together they seem to lose this individuality and form a new, larger mass. Only when you look/listen closely and try and unpick the threads do the individual elements appear.

Ultimately though, despite the many elements to be heard at any one time, this is a relatively simple work (however it was made) because its impact when heard does not change that much from start to finish. We hear this one disorientating flow of gradually rotating sound continually throughout, coalescing and then unfolding constantly in and out of drone form, but with one or two subtle shifts in tone and density here and there aside, the sensation when listening, particularly at volume is of being immersed in the music, carried along by its force. So in many ways the must here is not at all unlike the noisier end of the drone scene, and so therefore it does sound familiar, but as music of this kind goes, Llali vell is exceptionally well conceived and realised, often quite beautiful in the ways described above and certainly one that will appeal to fans of this kind of thing a great deal. For me, it was a rewarding listen the first time through at high volume, though I am not so sure that I gained a great deal more from it after subsequent spins. You can now order l’innomable discs directly from the label, which is always my recommended approach.

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