Yann Novak | Stillness
901 Editions (CD/DL)
As the sonic component of an audio visual exhibition, Stillness finds the LA-based artist expanding on his long running investigation into widescreen ambience that is the aural equivalent of a Hiroshi Sugimoto seascape.
The album is divided into coastal-related themes: Subtropical and Oceanic, each representing the two climates that Novak has inhabited, Los Angeles and Seattle respectively. Each place has a fairly constant weather state, and the tracks here mirror that fact in their almost-frozen structure. Novak works his sound canvas in slow strokes, the layers moving in ultra-slow motion, but what motion there is plays tricks with the listener’s perceptions.
Both pieces share the same initial conception and construction, with shortwave radios having been tuned into static in each location. This approach reminds me of Stephan Mathieu’s Radioland album which processed similar radio static with wildly long delays, but where Mathieu’s pieces had a lighter, more ethereal quality, Novak’s two tracks here are deeply layered, like multiple horizons stacking on top of each other. It’s this weightier aspect that I find alluring in Novak’s work. Sure, there is an ultimate sense of drift/drone, sometimes with loops reverberating into a chasm of reflection, but there is also an emotional quality present, and Stillness is no exception.
The album’s first half consists of Subtropical, and the humid haze equated with LA hovers above the speakers like a heat mirage. To my ears, it’s the brighter of the two pieces, as if the Californian sunshine and azure skies have insinuated their way into the slightly-shifting particles. Oceanic is somewhat darker, a more overcast shade to its more rigid framework. I like this contrast, one half of the set is bathed in vibrancy while the other is cloaked in monochrome.
Both pieces are extremely abstract and allow the listener to project their own subjective ideas into their meditative spaces. And this is the real beauty of Novak’s career in the sound art world: his music is one that creates a particular headspace, one that opens the senses while simultaneously depriving them of variation, like the mind altering states of consciousness achieved in a floatation tank. This is music to lose your track of time in, to let your mind wander and contemplate in an ambiguous sonic space.