PLYXY | GloryLand
Hallow Ground (12″/DL)
There is something fairly old-hat about describing an aesthetic creation as ‘beautiful’, and to do so feels somewhat at odds with my distinctly post-modern roots. Contemporary works of art are surely beyond the consideration of beauty, a category that feels as though it should be consigned forever to the dustbin of romanticism. And yet, for all of that, despite our ingrained knowledge of the peaks and throughs of modern art, beauty recurs. PLYXY’s GloryLand is beautiful – achingly beautiful, melancholically beautiful, and though it is often so much more than a simple aesthetic pleasantry, it would be a fundamental disservice to describe it as anything else.
On face value, the album wields a handful of compositional devices that are immediately recognisable, and as such might be considered staples of their genre. Ambient, gritty swells populate the opening track – fittingly epithet It will be beautiful – a bed of fluctuating, wasp-like warbles giving way to a looped and drifting chord progression housed in a dense fog of creaking drones. And if these descriptions sound familiar, they are – the composer doesn’t so much rewrite the book of ambient music as he does incorporate its recipes with such a deft hand. Every drawn string, every burst of elongated reverb seems crafted with precision, a deeply moving mass of texture and longing. Though far more minimal, even post-industrial in its nature, GloryLand sounds, at times, like it might have been produced by the late, sublime, Johann Johansson in one of his more experimental moments – a likeness that is emphasised by a faintly classical understanding of melody, tempo and structure.
The album is a work of surprising depth, unfolding with a deceptive tongue. Ambient, floating hums contrast with hauntological creaks and sorrowful strings in an extremely pleasant but hardly ground-breaking fashion. And yet, on closer inspection what emerges is a work that understands its tools so entirely that the form it produces is an exquisite craft, an emotive and anamnestic journey through the intimate terrain of its composers mind. This is evident in no small part due to the albums strange and initially frustrating pace. Upon first listen, each track felt faintly rushed, as if the composer was afraid to fully commit to the minimalist tableau that he had created. Though hardly busy or inundated with content, each part seemed initially to unfold at speed and to be over all too quickly, an approach at odds with the often drawn-out, coma-inducing lethargy upon which so much ambient composition relies.
GloryLand soon reveals itself to be a work not of concision, but of fragmentation – the listener is exposed not to the endless cascades of melancholic wash that one might expect from its genre, but to a series of distinct recollections, each couched in the intangible fog of the half-forgotten. So strong was this feeling of memory, of audibly experiencing the composers own recollection of past events, that I was not surprised to find the albums press release explain the works premise as an exploration of nostalgia concerning the composers emigration from Dnepropetrovsk to New York. It is a point underscored by the inclusion of geo-specific field-recordings, a device that though hardly incongruous with the album as a whole, is perhaps lacking the same textural nuance, the implicit state of tension, that the more melodic aspects employ. That said, the use of such recordings no doubt bolsters the musicality of the albums second half. Opening with a wistful, melancholic string section, Katyusha offers an interesting counterpoint to GloryLand – it both articulates the minimal, texture rich, and heavily processed language of the album, and points firmly to its position as a work of memory.
Ultimately, PLYXY crafts a world that shines most brightly when it is at its most tonal. Whilst a strong reliance on the reverb and delay, so indicative of the ambient genre as whole, occasionally masks its character, it is the albums more refined approach to harmony – and the relationship between frequency and timbre in general – that make it such an engaging experience. There is something inherently tense about the colouring of each track, a fragmentary weave that teases both a primal incantation and a subtle, soporific restraint. And if each of these fragments lacks much in the way of compositional development, this is not a failing in the context of the work as a whole. The final track, March of Youth, seems to almost openly address this lack of progression, by offering both the most clear change of mood and the most explicit sense of stasis – the introduction of an almost techno loop of rolling distortion that builds in colour and intensity over several minutes before disappearing suddenly, without announcement. Like the disparate memories upon which the work is based, the listener is suddenly cast adrift, left with nothing but a vague and intangible recollection of the emotions of the past.