I confess that I had no plans to review this album. I only bought it in the first place because of a robbery. I learned from the ever useful Ambientblog that the head of a couple of netlabels had been the victim of theft and had lost, among other things, his laptop. Seeing that the person concerned was Leonardo Rosado, and that he was selling his newest album on bandcamp for a modest price to raise funds to replace his equipment, my attention was snagged.
Rosado curates the Feedbackloop netlabel, several of whose releases I have downloaded and enjoyed free of charge, including Rosado’s own 2011 release Opaque Glitter. He also runs Heart and Soul, which recently put out the wonderful poetry/jazz/ambient release Allegories by the Dwindlers, also on my shelf and much enjoyed. The fact that someone running two music labels in Portugal from which I had enjoyed several releases is working on a scale where the theft of a laptop is debilitating, that I would hear about it before too long in Michigan, and that I could immediately in a modest way help put it right by buying a fresh release on bandcamp highlights the potential of the netlabel world for human-scale connections around music. I was on board, and figured the music would be pleasant anyway. $7 later, The Blue Nature of Everyday was on my hard drive. (More below the player.)
It turns out the music is worth more than a passing listen, and the giving was not all from my end. On first listen it was tempting to categorize the album as drone music – it opens with a firmly droning note and a hiss of background texture. The further the album proceeds, though, the clearer it becomes that another description is needed. I was struck by the aptness of an observation from a recent Dusted review of En’s Already Gone (also reviewed here at MiG) by Matthew Wuethrich:
“What we call drone music is really more a reduction of musical elements and the extension of what remains after that. It’s music that’s about drilling down into musical material to find just that which is essential — a texture, a series of overtones, a tangy dissonance, a clear theme, moments of enveloping atmosphere — and reconstructing them into a rich, satisfying whole. It’s a lot of things, but a one-note show it is not.”
The same is true here. There is a drilling down to a few basic musical elements, some piano notes, some extended tones, some haze and static, and setting them in lazily spiraling, melancholy motion, minimal yet never remotely still. The opener, “Variation in Blue #1: Dusk,” sets the somewhat sombre atmosphere with its series of darkly chiming tones and patiently circling sonorities. Each note is drawn painstakingly across the sound canvas, apparently in no hurry to arrive anywhere but punctured now and again by subtly echoing percussive events like distant thunder. This use of a resonantly gliding instrumental backdrop layered against more sharply defined intrusions of sound creates a tension that keeps the track from sinking into stasis. This strategy intensifies through the middle of the album.
Brian Eno famously characterized ambient music as music that can be “actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener”. That duality will be familiar to anyone who has listened to many ambient recordings and experienced the switch between innocuous background noise and carefully detailed textures that can happen with a deliberate refocusing of attention. Yet especially with the middle tracks on this album it was another effect that caught my ear and drew me in.
The second and third tracks again work with a minimal series of drawn-out background tones, but add a more active foreground, with clusters of brighter notes forming echoing sequences and vivid scraping sounds adding a sense of nearby activity. The fourth, more ominous track likewise works in layers, but this time punctuates the drift with linear bursts of static, in a manner faintly reminiscent of some moments in the collaborations of Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, before heading into the sound of rain. In the final track percussive echoes and more clearly defined piano notes compete insistently for the middle ground, while the background has been reduced to a static haze and periodic pure chimes mark time.
Rather than sitting innocuously by and waiting for me to discipline my ear and choose to pay heed, these tracks subtly tugged at my attention, but instead of exciting it they began slowing it down, nudging me to adjust my pace to the music’s sedate progress. The way in which the more active layer of notes/noises travels patiently and steadily across the undulating backdrop creates an effect akin to watching people walk across a plain in the distance. The combination of small defined object and open space, visible motion and yet infinitesimal progress yields a sense of openness and patience that rebukes the scurrying mind and invites calm waiting. Life is busy for me right now, and meeting music that actively called me to patience was a gentle gift.
Check the album out on bandcamp, give it a listen and see if it draws you in as it did me. And maybe consider helping out with that new laptop.
David Smith currently lives in the Midwestern United States, where he teaches, writes, and enjoys a very wide range of music, with regard to which he claims no expertise whatsoever beyond that of a dedicated and appreciative listener.
All posts by David Smith | Subscribe to Entries (RSS)