Hot on the heels of Comme arrives a new collection of work, Days, published by the boutique Brooklyn label The Land Of.
Days collects five studio pieces drawn from acoustic recordings of piano and voice, treated, amplified, and arranged. The arrangements are simple: long passages of sound material lay next to each other, their closeness and distance outlining a structure.
The impressions of sound, and upon sound, color through the window influencing the acoustics. Transparency and a sense of architecture. Materials, once unique, begin to reflect each other, and that can be enough.
Anne recorded herself singing a old folk song in both Swedish and English. She took the recordings and mixed them together in software. She liked the result and suggested that I work with these recordings. The piano recordings are of my own improvisations. On “exposures,” I’ve done some singing as well.
some words from Anne:
i think of these words
what you hear at 5 am after you stayed up all night deep in some project and yr not
really sure yr awake
but yr just reentering reality
and sort of surprised it has been there all night
lastly, a quote:
“no one writes or paints alone. but we have to make the pretense of so doing.”
bourriaud, relational aesthetics, p.81
The Land Of’s latest releases perpetuate the label’s reputation for understated sound sculpting, the first of which comes from Billy Gomberg, a Chicago-born and Brooklyn-based musician and video artist who uses analog synthesis, digital treatments, acoustic recordings, and custom programming to produce “acoustics in love with their abstraction,” and the second from Haruki (Gent, Belgium-based Boris Snauwaert).
On the forty-minute Days, Gomberg’s tracks are constituted by patiently-unfolding improvisations of feathery textures and melodic fragments, the electronically-treated music defining itself more as a translucent mass of interwoven sounds rather than as a hierarchical structure with melody at the forefront and a rhythm pattern behind it. Gomberg’s is a low-level approach that demands an attentive ear in order to be appreciated; put simply, a given track features lots of activity during its meander but one must lean in closely to hear it. Following a given track’s trajectory, one also becomes aware of the sensitivity with which Gomberg intuitively shapes the material from moment to moment—carefully adding a sound here and accentuating another there. In “Exposures,” tiny pebbles of pitter-pattering electronic sounds ripple alongside Gomberg’s wordless vocal musings and dabs of treated piano. “Darkened” includes the voice of Anne Guthrie, Gomberg’s Fraufraulein partner, though one could easily misidentify her voice as some purely electronically-generated sound, given the degree of transformation in play (apparently she recorded herself singing an old folk song in both Swedish and English, then mixed them together using software, and passed the results along to Gomberg who incorporated them into two of the album’s tracks). When a few piano notes appear through the mist one minute into “Lights From Her Body,” the effect is almost startling, so habituated has the listener become by then to Gomberg’s electronic style. It’s nevertheless a reminder that Days‘ pieces are rooted in acoustic recordings of piano and voice, even if such sounds have been radically transformed. “Glass Negatives” pushes the style to its zenith with softly glimmering piano notes dotting a windswept mass that extends itself across a dozen, time-suspending minutes.
Billy Gomberg delivers a thought provoking and beautiful release for the brilliant Land Of imprint. His work is fascinating and I’ve enjoyed it immensely over the last few years (beginning I believe with his contribution to the Post Piano open remix project where he provided a very nice interpretation indeed). Days consists of five studio recordings based on manipulations of piano and voice recordings. It instantly clicked with me as it takes the inherent beauty of both sounds sources and processes them in such a way that they become strangely hallucinatory. Ethereal and unearthly sounding, the tones are stretched into deep and mood driven textures with the naturally percussive piano hits taking on an almost (I stress almost) rhythmic quality. There’s variety here with more stark drone / soundscape pieces that flow beautifully as well as a style that, in my opinion, could simply be called pure ambient, although I’m aware that one man’s ambient is another man’s experimental. For fans of the label and other such high quality imprints (12k, and/OAR and Dragon’s Eye spring to mind) this is without doubt something to immediately give your attention to. Limited to 100 copies and fully excellent all round.
Everything on Days by Billy Gomberg seems wispy and vague, as though the lightest breath might reduce it to ashes. It’s a bit like the musical equivalent of Cybil Shepherd on Moonlighting, beautiful but distant and softened by silk stockings. Piano and voice – Gomberg’s own as well as Anne Guthrie singing in Swedish – are heavily treated, smeared into transparent watercolours, while traces of field recording, tinkerings and rustlings, wash up alongside. There’s something of Akira Rabelais in the manner in which tones and traces twist and dissolve like the wind during ‘Darkened’, and there’s much to admire in the ethereal lightness of these pieces, their near erasure, but that also makes them frustratingly elusive. Headphones are essential; through speakers these featherweight sketches amount to nothingness.
The Land Of label’s mission is “to explore the beauty and detail of everyday sounds”. A series of delicate, intricate releases by the likes of My Fun, Asher and Green Kingdom have seen them carve a chair out of wood and pull up to the table currently occupied by the likes of 12k. So what everyday sounds will we find on this new pair of records by Haruki and Billy Gomberg?
Lets try the Haruki first: I hear a piano, a fridge, a piano which also functions as a fridge, a dog trapped inside a piano which also functions as a fridge, Metal Machine Music performed by a swarm of bees, a gnat having its heartbeat taken, a folk band tumbling in the blades of a combine harvester, a robot idly surfing horror movies on TV, a picnic inside a Faraday cage, a distant distress signal (sent by the dog in the fridge, no doubt). And the Billy Gomberg: a motorbike starting underwater, someone moaning at pipes, a weeping ship, a cricket made of metal rubbing its legs on the rim of a wine glass, a bashful siren, the air con of a plane 30,000 feet overhead, a drowning piano (oh the poor dog), and a crowd’s collective gasp stretching out to infinity.
Everyday sounds, then? Not exactly. Both persuasively combine acoustic and electronic elements, with Haruki adding field recordings, while Gomberg seems to mutate the instrumental sounds until they sound like field recordings. The Haruki is crisper, with more recognisable instrumentation, constantly shifting in tone and mood (indeed it is vaguely sinister-sounding at times), while the Billy Gomberg is muffled, diffuse, watery, more abstract and somehow sadder. Both are minimal, quiet, intense collections which you need to persuade to give up their charms. It is worth persevering though, as despite what the label may tell you, these aren’t things you hear every day.
Il compare Billy Gomberg invece mantiene la rotta disegnata già da The Green Kingdom ed Offthesky, ossia quella dei suoni acustici resi spesso irriconoscibili da trattamenti elettronici stratificati volti a creare drone gentili e melodici (di scuola Stephan Mathieu e Tailor Dupree, per intenderci). Partendo da suoni di piano e voce della compagna Anne Gutrhie e di se stesso, Gomberg regala all’ascoltatore un delicato quadro rosa pastello di tracce soffuse e piacevolmente soporifere. La malinconia pervade un po’ tutto il disco, ma senza mai sconfinare in qualcosa di depressivo.
Belli, come sempre, anche i packaging, sebbene questa volta quello di Gomberg più convenzionale rispetto agli alti standard cui ci ha abituati The Land Of.
Pianoreveries in the Land of Glitch. Träumerisch in sich versenkt, manchmal fast alptraumhaft verlangsamt, als ob jede Bewegung, jeder Ton, zähklebrig nicht von der Stelle käme. So spielt der 1979 in Chicago geborene, seit 2005 in Brooklyn aktive Gomberg somnambul Klavier und schickt die Töne dann durch Filter und Verstärker und Modulatoren. Morphing à la Morpheus. Gombergs kürzliches Debutalbum auf mOAR ist mit dem vagen Wörtchen ‚comme‘ betitelt – wie, wie zum Beispiel, wie auch immer… Die Pianoklänge verwehen als rauschende, summende, hell schwebende, flackernde Drones, als Slow-Motion-Loops, betupfen sich selbst wieder mit dunklen, unscharfen Flecken, stumpfen Klacklauten. Beim Auftakt summt Gomberg zu seinen After-Midnight-Improvisationen. Beim abschließenden ‚Glass Negatives‘ erklingt die Stimme von Anne Guthrie mit einem Volkslied, allerdings nur für paranormal empfängliche Ohren hörbar.