Fescal: Two Winter Poems
Two Winter Poems comes to us by way of composer Fescal and Russian imprint Dronarivm. The classically trained creator's real name isn't identified, though it's known that he's English-born, currently resides north of Seoul, South Korea, and has issued material on Time Released Sound and Twice Removed Records, among others. Three dimensions of the release warrant discussion: the music itself, the subject matter, and the presentation.
The subject matter is, without question, inspired and original, with Fescal drawing inspiration from the literature of Russian writer Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), specifically the poems “Winter Morning” and “Winter Evening.” The first regards the snow-covered outdoors as a majestic wonderland waiting to be explored, even while viewed from within the comfort of a warm home, while the latter finds the poet sheltered within, protected from the gusty blizzard growling outside the frail hut. Both the day's passage from light to dark and the season's changes parallel the miracle that is life's cycles—a miracle which inspired both Pushkin and, two hundred years later, Fescal.
Musically, the release consists of two long-form drones based on the poems. As far as drones go, the two are ultra-rich in detail and dimension and amply reward close listening. “Winter Morning” uses droning organ chords as the nucleus around which muffled voices and additional musical elements swell into a polyphonic mass that subtly advances and recedes. Within that whole, one glimpses vocal ululations seemingly struggling to reach the surface, a detail that gives the piece a somewhat plaintive character that “Winter Evening” embraces more fervently. With all of the elements shimmering so gently, the impression formed is of light fading and, perhaps, of life fading away, too. In fact, it would be more accurate to characterize “Winter Evening” as an ambient soundscape than drone, given its vaporous drift and ethereal quality.
As splendid as the music itself is, it's matched by the presentation. The three-inch disc arrives within a tiny box, accompanied inside by two image cards, one a watercolour illustration by Mark Coates and the other a winter photograph by Sergey Klochev of a Pushkin statue, a tiny booklet containing the texts for the poems (in Russian and English) and historical background, and even a small bag containing bush twigs of Korean traditional tea. Supplementing the disc with the literary and presentation dimensions helps make Fescal's already memorable outing all the more so. In these downloads times, Two Winter Poems is one of those releases that makes a powerful argument on behalf of the physical release.