Duncan Ó Ceallaigh: Psalms
[ parvoart ] recordings

Van Der Papen: Path
[ parvoart ] recordings

The micro-label [ parvoart ] recordings, established by Duncan Ó Ceallaigh in the Baltic Sea port of Wismar in 2007, returns with two new 3-inch releases, one by Van Der Papen (twin brothers Ronald and Christoph Lonkowsky) and the other by Ó Ceallaigh himself.

Van Der Papen's splendid sophomore effort, Paths, opts for three tracks of glorious ambient dub-techno, with each marked by hazy synthetic textures and driving bass-heavy grooves. “Eisenbahn” (“railway”) opens in ambient mode but then, a minute in, springs forward with a bass-thrusting bounce that suggests a train in full flight. Midway through, the train squeals to a momentary stop before leaving the station with a techno attack that pounds even more heavily and with an even more jubilant spirit. Sounding like a great lost Chain Reaction track, “Signpost” underlays bright punctuations and blurry synthetic tones with a pulsating kick drum and a subterranean dub bass in a manner that's as propulsive as the opening track, even if the pace is now less furious. Emerging slowly out of a bath of dust and crackle, “London” achieves lift-off three minutes in, with claps and a deep bass line pushing dense fields of string tones and synth washes forward. Halfway through, faint traces of electro and even deep house surface like resurrected spirits as the slow-burning mix turns increasingly funky before diving back into the crackle with which it began.

The three long-form meditations on Ó Ceallaigh's third EP, Psalms, take their titles from Biblical passages, while the haunted character of the music itself was inspired by the painter Makoto Fujimura, whose work (sometimes religious in nature) exemplifies mystery and grace in a visual manner that Ó Ceallaigh aspires to match aurally. “117” (“The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever”) opens with a field recording of rain drizzle and church bells (from the St. Nikolai church in Wismar near Ó Ceallaigh's home) before ceding the stage to a stirring drone of organ and choir, the two blended into a high-pitched, subtly wavering current of willowy character that persists throughout the track's nine minutes. Close listening reveals ever-so-subtle changes occurring within the drone, before the symmetrical re-appearance of drizzle and church bells brings the piece to a close. “22” (“My God, why have you forsaken me?”) augments an organ's melancholy modulations with rustling sounds and a general feel of disorientation and drift, in keeping with the sense of loss and desolation suggested by the textual passage. “139” (“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me... Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me”) is the most peaceful of the three tracks, the subject in this case having reached a state of acceptance about his/her humble state, as slowly swirling tones, accompanied by subliminal strings and an occasional bass accent, establish a mood of stillness and resolution.

December 2009