Nigel Samways: Nine Barrow Down
Ephre Imprint

For his third Ephre EP, English sound experimentalist Nigel Samways plunders source material by two unidentified yet nevertheless “eminent and quintessentially English composers of differing creed”—not that their identities make a whole lot of difference when Samways re-shapes the sounds as drastically as he does (and re-works his own material into it as well). Apparently, the EP's content relates to a teenage experience that involved unexplained phenomena Samways encountered (or at least believed he encountered) alone at night in the Dorset countryside.

The longer of the two pieces at sixteen minutes, “Nine Barrow Down” sets sail on a slightly seasick course with a hazy, reverb-soaked mix of unintelligible vocal wooziness and smeary instrumental murmurings before subsequently emerging into a sunlit setting of chirping birds and what sounds like blurry piano and orchestral elements. Everything moves, not unappealingly, in slow-motion, suggesting that perhaps we should draw a connection between the music and the seemingly immobilized body on the cover that—so the inner sleeve's text clarifies—is actually moving (smoothly, we're told) across the field. Or perhaps we should equate the music with “the radio speaker still playing quietly, softly” that's described in the text. Such mysteries remain unresolved, just as they should be, and the baffled listener is left musing upon possible meanings as the rather unearthly sounds drift moodily through the ghostly background. Samways plunges down the rabbit hole for a briefer spell in “Nine Barrow Down [Actual],” a four-minute coda that perpetuates the hallucinatory character of the first piece before stopping abruptly (methinks a fade would have been the better choice). Those who cottoned to Samways' previous Ephre EPs, Silver Rain, Green Trees and Poor Henrietta Marie, should cotton to this one just as much, seeing as how it's as mystifying and eccentric as its predecessors.

May 2011