EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Richard J. Birkin:
Accretions | A Lullaby Hymn
There's nothing terribly unusual about a techno or house release appearing in a two-track single format; it's considerably rare for something one might characterize as neo-classical to be presented in such a manner. That's hardly the only noteworthy thing about Richard J. Birkin's double A-side single, however. In fact, said detail pales into insignificance once the music's exquisite aroma begins filling the air. The Derbyshire, UK-based Birkin, who plays in Crash of Rhinos and Emphemetry and whose musical output appears in many guises (among them soundtracks, string quartets, folk songs, ambient soundscapes, and piano pieces), is releasing the instrumentals under his own name prior to the release of a full-length in early 2014.
As a term, it refers to the tail of a black hole, a phenomenon Birkin describes as both beautiful and nightmarish; as a musical work, “Accretions” was conceived to be a soundtrack to that image—literally so, in fact, as it was commissioned by QUAD, a Derby-based cinema, gallery, and workshop, to be presented in tandem with work by Nottingham artist Christopher Boote during the gallery's Event Horizon exhibition (from September to December, 2013). Birkin's six-minute piece positions the piano at the center of an evolving mass of ethereal textures, bowed cello phrases, and string masses, with the keyboard's insistent, cyclical patterns draped across the dense background like floating crystals—a luscious setting whose harmonious character makes it easy to warm up to.
There's an interesting backstory to the second piece also, as “A Lullaby Hymn (Parts I & II)” evolved out of the Emphemetry trio's performance of its 2011 album A Lullaby Hum For Tired Streets. As Birkin reports, after the album was completed, he still had ideas relating to its material that he wanted to explore further, in this case the piece “A Lullaby Hum.” Though the original was built around reverse guitar loops, Birkin's new, two-part re-imagining puts an altogether different spin on it. The opening, piano-centered section gets up close to the instrument's wistful musing in a way that calls to mind Nils Frahm, before the piano slows to announce the advent of the second part and a dramatic shift in mood and instrumental design. A subtle hint of joy emerges as the arrangement broadens out to include violins, violas, and guitars, and a palpable feeling of liberation likewise enters the picture as the slowly ascending music takes flight. All things considered, the single's fifteen minutes suggest one would be wise to keep an eye out for Birkin's imminent full-length.