2009 Artists' Picks
Lymbyc Systym

Cory Allen
The Bird Ensemble
Catlin & Machinefabriek
Greg Davis
Loren Dent
Drafted By Minotaurs
Sarah Goldfarb & JHK
John Hollenbeck
Viviane Houle
Akira Kosemura
Andrew McKenna Lee
Le Lendemain
Lymbyc Systym
The Mercury Program
Noveller / Aidan Baker
Marina Rosenfeld
Stripmall Architecture
Wes Willenbring
The Tony Wilson Sextet
Julia Wolfe
Peter Wright

Compilations / Mixes
Glimpse Four:Twenty 03
Portland Stories

Molnbär Av John
Tommi Bass & B.B.S.C.
Julian Beau
Colours-Volume 5
Simon James French
Geiom & Shortstuff
General Elektriks
Ernest Gonzales
Ann Laplantine
Stefano Pilia
Damian Valles

Dirac: Emphasis

Peter Wright: An Angel Fell Where the Kestrels Hover

An Angel Fell Where the Kestrels Hover neatly captures the highly evocative dimension experimental guitarist Peter Wright brings to his sound works. The album title alone indicates as much: while listening in a South London meadow to early mixes on headphones, Wright observed a circling kestrel looking for field mice in the long grass and couldn't help but note connections between the bird's hummingbird-like movements and his music, and the album's tracks are just as evocative in their suggestiveness. First of all, however, it bears noting that, though it's pitched as the second part of a two-album reflection on his emotional responses to seasonal changes, An Angel Fell Where the Kestrels Hover is a far different album in tone from its predecessor, the double-CD outing Snow Blind: whereas the earlier release is coloured by the gloominess of winter, the new release's focus is on spring and summer and hence feels sunnier.

Recorded in London, England live to disc (the field recording “Lavender Buzz” the exception), the album exudes a real sense of flow, with Wright sequencing the tracks into a travelogue of sorts. The album opens in a bucolic mode and peaceful frame of mind with “Fell Asleep Here” before darkness sets in with “Sunstroke” which sounds unsettled by comparison. Dominated by field recordings, “Lavender Buzz” plunges us into the center of a heat-drenched forest of chirping birds and bee swarms, the latter buzzing intensively as they gather nectar from flowers (Wright placed the microphone in the middle of a patch of lavender plants). “River Lea Time Lapse,” a drone meditation of shuddering guitar drift, is as time-suspending as its title suggests. By virture of length, two tracks in particular, “London is Drowning ...”  and “Kestrels,” allow for a deeper immersion. In the former, Wright patiently weaves streams of guitar tendrils into a dense, resonating mass over a fifteen-minute span, while the latter, a placid meld of piano and guitar streams, pushes his sound into an even hazier, transcendental realm. With the three-minute drone “... And I Live by the River” acting as a bridge between the two, the album could be seen as ending with a single half-hour setting rather than three separate ones. It's a moot point to some degree, however, given that Wright has structured the album so that it unspools as a continuous, forty-seven-minute listen. In brief, listening to An Angel Fell Where the Kestrels Hover might be likened to a hike that begins in open fields but then heads into a darkened forest where the deeper one goes, the more disturbing the experience becomes until, all fears eventually subsiding, one reaches a state of blissed-out disorientation.

Similarly packaged in Spekk's distinctive vertical case design, Emphasis features four, patiently nurtured, long-form explorations that unfold unhurriedly, in the manner that one associates with improvised material. Vienna, Austria-based Dirac members Peter Kutin, Daniel Lercher, and Florian Kindlinger recorded the material in daily four-hour sessions in the basement of Kindlinger's parents' house in Salzburg during one week, and later did post-production editing in February 2008 in a snowy and silent Austrian mountain setting. Guided by the spirit of spontaneous composition, the three supplement a wealth of electro-acoustic sounds with field recordings (traffic noise, crows cawing, children's voices). In “This is Your 4 am Wake-Up Call,” gleaming slivers of whistling tones stretch out while a bedside clock ticks in the background (and the snores of an unidentified someone emerge too); as the minutes tick by, the music gains strength, just like a person slowly arising from slumber. “Augarten” follows it with a setting built from electric guitar shudder, piano, percussion, and ambient noises. “Bantu” presents a shape-shifting flow of organ, music box tinkles, trumpet, and bass, while the slow-motion organ drone “A Rest in Tension” is placid in the extreme. While its low-key approach eschews epic gestures capable of shattering one's speakers, Emphasis is the kind of set that would appeal to fans of Radian and any number of Rune Grammofon artists.

January 2010