Compilations / Mixes
subtractiveLAD: The Language of Flowers
A recent textura review of bvdub's music made mention of how much change the project had undergone since its inception. Much the same could be said of Stephen Hummel's subtractiveLAD, which is now up to its eighth album release with the appearance of The Language of Flowers (though it should be mentioned, too, that Hummel issued the song-based collection Meld under his own name in 2012). While subtractiveLAD releases have traditionally appeared on n5MD, the new one has been released by Hummel independently and is, by its creator's own estimation, his “most achingly personal” to date. Life experiences typically work their way into an artist's work, and Hummel is no exception in that regard, with The Language of Flowers informed by both loss (of family and friends) and gain (the birth of his daughter).
In many respects, the fifty-three-minute release plays like an overview of all of the stylistic places subtractiveLAD has visited during its lifespan. Highly charged episodes of ambient, post-rock, and emotional electronica appear, sometimes within the same piece (not a surprise when three of the four tracks push past the ten-minute mark), with the material often spearheaded by Hummel's electric guitar playing. The luscious, piano-centered moodpiece “Little Flood” confirms that his composing gifts are as strong as ever, as is his ability to create atmospheric settings of transporting character, while Frippertronics-styled guitar textures help flesh out the peaceful and meditative soundworld of “Finding and Letting Go.”
It's the longest piece, “The Opposite of Easy,” that is the most arresting, however, and it's this one in particular that encapsulates the subtractiveLAD sound in all of its various guises. The twenty-three minute setting first lays out a placid, pastoral soundworld of guitars and synthesizers that would make The Green Kingdom green (sorry) with envy, but then, as the halfway mark approaches, a shift occurs that sees the music's hazy swirl gradually morph into a towering fireball swarm that would do Tim Hecker proud. And upon that powerful flameout the latest subtractiveLAD chapter ends, no doubt setting the stage for the next.