Russell Mills + Mike Fearon | Still Moves|Three
Slow Fuse Sound (BK+2xCD Set/DL)
There are six volumes in the Still Moves series from Russell Mills + Mike Fearon, each complete with a limited edition full color and fully illustrated hardback book in addition to each enclosing a set of two CDs (half have been released, the remaining sets are forthcoming). Each of these extraordinary sets has been produced as a limited edition of only 750 (100 of which are signed + sold out) with interpretative texts detailing each multimedia installation. My primary focus is on the most recent, Still Moves|Three – I”ll have to do some digging to acquire the other previous volumes, but trust me, it’s worth it as both One & Two are just as existentially adventurous. These have each been time-released since 2015 (the most recent in June 2018). Only recently did I become aware of this set from these venerable composers, and this is in anticipation of the final two forthcoming groupings.
First of all it must be mentioned that nothing was spared in the physical manufacturing of this set, from the linen cover down to the metallic embossing, incredible graphics of sculptural and live elements and dactylic texts. It’s a thing of beauty to hold in ones hands, it even has this old-fashioned book aroma. It’s one of those editions that any artist would be proud to have in the hands of collectors who seek out a/v ephemera. I’ve sought out a copy of Mills’ collab with NIN Cargo in the Blood/The Reverse Is Also True (that gorgeous looking limited volume), for a few years, but yet have added it to my list of grails (one day, alas). This being subtitled ‘Music for Installations‘ seems appropriate in the hands of a fellow installation artist, let’s push play and see what happens….
At first this is pure, pure ambient stretched in textural ambient drone, instantly traversing its course with chill tones. A low dangling hum blots through the air as speeding vehicular sounds on pavement move through passing from left to right, and back again on Felt Slippers. These are the type of resonances that make one want to curl up under a comforter and become acquainted with a more meditative stasis. The two cds that run roughly two hours will take you into spaces dotted with gaseous bursts, muffled voice transmissions and lush ambient clarity. And the narrator on Sea Fret is drenched in lyrical maritime poetics, speaking of the sky dissolving upon the tide, gulls, the “litany of the sea” and breakwater. As the son of a longshoreman, the speaker’s words and breadth of delivery delicately takes me back to the coastline of New England.
Throughout this double disc set I’m gently reminded of Mills’ mid 80s collaboration with Brian Eno, in its sense of reclusiveness and aura of bruised-not-broken quietude with much in repose. This is so evident as on the changing course of Flint And Spark (Leaden Litany Of The Sea) where restraint leads to the wrath of Mother Nature, only to recoil back and out of earshot. The piece incorporates what sound to be field recordings or samples superimposed over a wash of wavy drones the loop in and start to meander amidst tiny cracking (sparking) microsounds. Between this and Disjecta Membra it’s hard not to imagine getting lost in this tension release of grounded sonics. The latter really is like being immersed in levitating tones, that roll in the icy space between dark and light. Here and for the remaining parts (tracks 4 through 8) of this set Mills and Fearon collaborate with lauded Italian sound designer Eraldo Bernocchi and other formidable folk in the field like: Harold Budd, Bill Laswell, Gigi and Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari.
We are simply submerged in delicate minimalism, not in the strict sense, but in the psycho-acoustic sense, this emerges with intense smouldering beauty, it will tingle the most jaded ears. The smooth undulations just surround you, seducing the psyche into the cosmic sound propagation that begets Stone Fall, with its sound effects and percussive fragments that wonderfully interrupt the delicate sombre like floating particles and echoing hallways. This constant feel of being underwater, as on Feeling Into Form, will goad its listener into a somewhat submissive state, in that the atmospheric tone float dispels typical structure or rhythm for a more formless experiential listen overall.
The timbral implications are vast, and the weightlessness of Thought Engines reminds me of some of the flying creatures I encounter in my flower garden. They are there, and then gone in a fleeting momentary instant. This piece has a cinematic vibe moreso than other works here, I’m imagining a grand castle looming in the twilight. There is this processional sense articulated between what I can only imagine as stones being moved under water. It’s all somewhat bleary-eyed and filtered in soothing harmonic grey-area dulcet tones. And as this comes to its finale, the volume offers And Yet It Moves, a delicate work that matches all of the above with synthesized slo-motive effects that are sensitive fragments in the way in which treble is enacted in this broth of crying low-slung drone. Here the duo (w/friends) pair aquatic modulations with muted abstractions emanating from an alien toy music box released amid the moon dust.