Various Artists | Tranquility Variations
Releasing tomorrow from independent Japanese imprint mAtter is an interesting collaborative work mixed by Yukitomo Hamasaki which fuses sixteen pieces into one. This marks the Tokyo-based label’s tenth anniversary, and their interests have always aligned with my own, art, sound + architecture. Aside from Hamasaki this recording includes work by: Edwin Lo, France Jobin, Go Koyashiki, Lars Lundehave Hansen, Luigi Turra, Masaya Kato and Miwa Okuno, Pe Lang, Richard Chartier, Stijn Hüwels and Tomas Philips.
Most of these artists (composers, visual artists, filmmakers) have brought us smart, minimal compositions over the past few decades, and here you can expect a whole lot of atmosphere. A few of these names are unfamiliar, so this will make for an exciting listen with those I have known, reviewed, worked with or enjoyed for many moons – especially since their actual portion here is somewhat anonymous and heard as part of a whole (see below). The tape comes with a download card and is limited to only 100 copies, and it’s broken simply into two tracks, side a and b.
Subtitled Hearing, Thinking and Making Soundscape, and is based on everyday sounds that are somewhat peripheral, unconscious. Because of the way the tracks are laid out I’d imagine that each artist likely is given approximately five minutes each or so. This hour-long, segmented by side in two half hour mixed works, mostly an ambient journey, further broken up as follows:
01. W// – Pe Lang
02. rt/d-II – Masaya Kato and Miwa Okuno
03. It rained all week and it was wonderful – Stijn Huwels
04. Headsonica #1 – Edwin Lo
05. DUO 4 – France Jobin + Richard Chartier
06. France Jobin variation of Fukinsei – France Jobin
Opening with a bleary drone that plays on left and right channels, fluidly moving back and forth, with an ambiguous, muted chime. It’s as relaxing as it is a bit disconcerting. The soft textural sound effects lend nicely to the mix as well, as if someone is fussing with an air balloon. Here there seem to be two pieces overlapping quite intricately, a single chord holds steady and in the deep background as these tiny physical, breathy manipulations take place. The actions are heavily amplified, as though someone is moving through a wooden corridor, every turn captured, and it comes off, with its pauses, as quite claustrophobic. Fabric is ruffled, hiss and crackle intact, and this mixes into a field recording of light rain which is quite lovely, judging by its hidden title I’d say this is Stijn Huwels (and this is my introduction to his work). A light, bright melody enters from back to fore and it’s just like the cracking of dawn.
The engine of a motorbike, ever so faint, leads to incidental microsound on a dual low-range layer that brings you a continuous near inaudible drone. An authoritative voice makes an announcement, and disappears into the lapping of the water’s edge. A pulsing reverb enters, shimmering through the rougher tide. It’s quite a stilling sensation. Small beeps and tics pop from shallow silence like the precision of a grandfather clock, but much more robotic. A curvaceous sound wave rises with its own set of lumins, balancing the isolation with breaks and static. It’s like a record melting in the sun. Electronic pauses tangle with other punctuating tones, the drone drops and a muffled murmer, at close range, is mouthing something, a call for help? It’s a dramatic end to part one.
01. [Imperfection] I – Luigi Turra
02. Calm Sall – Go Koyahsiki
03. The Findings Stadtpark – Andy Graydon
04. Tomas Philips variation of Fukinsei – Tomas Philips
05. Lunar-Eclipse – Lars Lundehave Hansen
06. The GARDEN03 ”Room” – Yukitomo Hamasaki
Hushed voices, high tones and sudden strumming kickstart the flip side. With it comes a tiny hint of the beep that signed off on side one. Here things are sparse, but are set such that anything can pop up at a momentary notice. This sounds like a live performance, with the most minimal actions upon a stringed instrument, percussive and plucked. An abstract work that reminds the ear of many of John Cage’s prepared instrument works, until it strays into a lil’ harmonious piece that takes its time to open up. Incidental nighttime echoes lead to a manly voice listing: aliens, drones, warlocks, werewolves…. Crackling outdoor sounds and his deep voice re-enters, reciting ‘giving nothing away’ in an imperceptible accent, as I listen I wonder is he Turkish, Italian, Scottish, Icelandic? Along with his voice a high tone climbs and bird calls start to weave into what becomes a mysterious passage of static manipulations, tiny percussion that is pleasing to the ear in its chattering, halfway through this half.
In what sounds like the birth of a cicada, the aural sequence starts to open up both channels much wider in these subtle colorful hues and continued dappled static. A few Canadian artists in this range come to mind, Loscil and Christopher Bissonnette – in the casual voluminous way this opens and separates so gently. It’s got a sweet glow with a darkening frailty. Suddenly punctuated by a single beat, a low drone wash and a tinkling chime materialize. The chime gets loud, almost with a tuning fork pitch, raising concern while centering the proceedings. The springy bounce of strings (bowed bass, viola?) sound more like wooden planks being played in the final four minutes, it’s a pleasant and unusual chord, repeatedly struck. The ending seems apropos in its distinct darkening pang of slowness and separation.