December 1, 2015
Germany’s Arovane has been putting out some striking ambient material of late, including the recent dwell_tevvel_structure on the UK label …txt recordings. I have no idea what a tevvel is, and neither does Google; it’s an anagram of velvet and bears a passing resemblance to the Dutch teviel (“too much”), but who knows if that is relevant. Dwelling, in the sense of settling down and taking time, and structure, here in the form of careful layers of sound, are both terms that illuminate the music on this album. The album consists of four long sound pieces (ranging from 14 to 20 minutes), each with its own distinct character yet tied together sonically in an arc that suggests four movements of a whole. The first opens with a gently undulating drift and fluttering patters of brightness – perhaps it’s the cover art, but I find it hard not to think of sunlight sparkling on waves. The effect is relaxing and peaceful in the way the movement of a thousand leaves in a tree in sudden breeze is peaceful. The second track is more subdued, hushed, and grainy. Textured and smooth layers of sound take turns coming to the fore. After a while we are left with an airy but somber machine hum, until faint celestial tones begin to play at the edge of hearing, and almost imperceptibly the enveloping hum warms in tone until it slides into silence. The third track opens with a steady stream of deliciously layered sound, defying the ear to pick out all the strata – the tiny pulses, the fricative halo around the gentle rasp, the quiet hum, the resonant space around the sounds. The slightest changes come and go as the track streams onward, one of those quietly demanding pieces where nothing at all is happening until you really listen. The final track recalls the first, taking us back to bright open spaces and rushing flurries of sound, this time a little more buoyant and sharply accented. The whole work focuses on layering sound upon sound and giving the rich textures that cause time to stretch out and slowly unfold their different facets. There is lots to enjoy here for the patient listener.
Hot on the heels of that release comes a collaboration with Porya Hatami that has an entirely different feel. Resonance (each track is named for a consecutive letter in the word) on Columbian Éter records, is darker, denser, a restlessly chattering conversation of small, dark sounds with some startling twists and turns. The album opens with a metallic glistening and an ominous hum, around which other fragments begin to bustle. Hatami’s releases have most often had a pastoral and rustic bent, but the world evoked here feels darker, more industrial, digital machines burbling and chiming in a cavernous, deserted factory. Things creak and stretch and tumble with resonant clatter as what sound like piano strings are struck, and strummed. A squelchy rhythm begins, haloed by a faint glow, before opening up into the album’s first contemplative stretch, a delicious blend of hum and hiss and tone that undulates gently for a while before sliding away into gentleness like waves receding. Then the computers are back to their grimly chiming cogitations, evolving into a nighttime jungle of electronic creatures. The electronic backdrop is joined by what sound more like actual bird calls, a dark machine world and nighttime nature merging before mournful strings emerge to add a human note to the scene. Drones layer into a glowing dawn, which abruptly ends in a brief and startling snatch of woozy jazz piano. The pattern of claustrophobically chittering machines, organic rustlings, and more peaceful, expansive tones repeats. As we reach the second N, ResonaNce, the world is brighter, more hopeful, burbling against crackling bright skies of sound. But then things turn ominous again, busy creaks and rustles return, like a wooden ship shifting darkly at its midnight mooring. The temperature drops and unseen presences whisper, until the woozy piano puts in a brief reprise, only to be overcome by a densely humming clatter. The whole is quite abstract and a little eerie, though not shapeless – a recurring strategy is to end busy pieces with brief closing sections that take them in quite different directions. A sense of being surrounded by small, unidentifiable events and uneasy dialogue between sound worlds makes for an album that is far from soothing but quite thought-provoking on close listening.
Stream and buy both albums below, or get the CD of dwell_tevvel_structure from …txt.
Filed under Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Experimental, Reviews