Wednesday, 9 January 2013

L. Pierre - The Island Come True


Going solo always opens up the possibility for something different. It's an opportunity for artists to delve into what, usually, is a personal ambition or a close interest in something that runs off on a tangent to their already established sound - be it part of a band or as an individual already working under another alias. For Aidan Moffat, that swing of sound is one of extreme contrast. Having established himself alongside band-mate Malcolm Middleton in their Scottish folk-indie outfit, Arab Strap, Moffat went about going alone and sat down to begin what would become a pair of melodic electronic-centred albums in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Touchpool, Moffat's second solo outing, was also his last, and since then, the Scot has been fairly quiet on the output stream. Fortunately, he has ended that silence with an album that, on the face of things, makes itself out to be (at least to we here at MRD who are used to rain-drenched terrace estates surrounded by fields) as a far-flung vacating of sun, shine and frivolous melodies. The Island Come True makes no illusion to the album's intentions. And as you learn very quickly from the sounds emanating here, the intentions are fairly pleasant.

KAB 1340 may not be the most quenching and colourful title to begin what is a visually-pleasing album sleeve, but almost immediately there's a sense and calm and collectiveness. The track starts with field recordings of seagulls and sea breezes amid a gale of ascending drone that becomes ever more entangled with the beach setting the sounds are places within. The drone also picks up content-wise and grows ever more into this angelic harmony of tones and textures. Throughout, the drone climbs and climbs and then fades off, only to build back up again, all the while, the sound of gust and gales strike in large sweeping movements that start to feel slightly more agitative and ferocious as the track slowly crawls to its end point. There's a muttering of violins and piano in the closing minute too, as the music gains more of a composite structure, and it utilizes the ambience amid the piece, brilliantly. But on follower Harmonic Avenger, it's Moffat's deliberate usage of lo-fi production and sample-based instrumental sections that really give his sound a sense of auspicious beauty. The looping piano makes for something both soothing yet suspicious at the same time, and as the vocals soon seep in, that clash of feelings becomes ever more apparent. It's a simple mix and an even simpler method of progression, but Moffat's skills lie in making the most in what is an intended lack of over-indulgence and over-sensitivity.

Admittedly, this is a record which is comprised of ideas and doodles at times, rather than complete compositions. The two minute sound-bites that you'll find in vaster numbers, than you'd expect from an album of this scale and shape, do make themselves out to be of less importance or simple place-fillers between what is the true essence of this album. But the truth is, is that the whimsical demographic of the music actually gives these shorter tracks an even bigger role overall. With Drums, the muffled, rattling of percussion and percussive breaks in-between, certainly gives more of an upbeat and rhythmic accompaniment. But above all, we find the flow of the album's main objectiveness for withdrawn melody, isn't broken because of it. Rather, the drums have such a low fidelity and remain akin to that sense of distant escapism, it gives the sound a untapped energy. Sad Laugh is arguably one of the repetitive of the album's sample-led looped composites, but even that can't take away from the track's lush string arrangements and lashing of low-end production feed. Further to that, the crackling and muffle of analogue sound works to the instrumental's favour and gives it more of a cloudy, lost feel which only adds to the melancholy of which the title might be suggesting.

One of the things I haven't come across - at least not in recent times - is an artist who uses low fidelity recording, within in a sound that complacently draws upon ambient sounds as a way to structure and explore. With The Grief That Does Not Speak, not only does Moffat work around the concept of ambient music as a means to spell out his ideas, but so too excels in getting that message across. Anyone who gets excited at a piece by the likes of Steve Roach or Robert Fripp, will immediately identify Moffat's use of emotional range to categorize his instrumentation in this sweeping of droned strings that sail aloft like some unearthly fantasizing of something completely not of this World. It's that climatizing sensation, while still being confined to the ground beneath us, that does justice to the track's continuous stance on production. And it's the tear between the lo-fi and the high reaches of the music itself that generates an interesting relation throughout.

Even when the scene is set irrefutably back onto the hard ground, and thus amid the wider environment around us, the feeling is still one of immediate awe and, equally, a sense of loss. Exits, as a piano piece theoretically, works because of its waving in and out of seclusion and exploration. But beyond that, the shift between the piece's initial twinkling of piano keys, and the latter plunges of dropped chords, it signals how sheer and dynamic a change the music becomes. It's a testament, in result, as to the power of the piano and how much the instrument can draw on the mind over such simple changes in pitch, tone and even complexity. True, this is not a complex piece, but a track such as this certainly reminds us of the potential thereafter. As noted, this is likely an idea of Moffat's, but as one of the shorter tracks on the album, it does justice in creating a warming comfort around the music's primary looping of keys and notes. The Kingdom, the final track - and the longest at over seven and a half minutes - is arguably Moffat's bravest and boldest piece of the album. And even more arguably, it's placed at such a crucial spot that the only way an album such as this could draw to a close is to spell out something even richer and interrogative to the listener's emotions. And true to it, the music is one of immediate awe. What instruments are contained here, violins, strings, cellos, are all blurred into this glowing drone of warm-shaded hues and tones. There's a throbbing of bass and hinted percussion that rumbles beneath in short, but engrossing spells, but for the most part, the track becomes aloft in this weightless ascension of droned strings that slowly fade away into a nightly backdrop with a slight wash of an ocean.

Such albums that rely heavily on samples and loops to the point where it encompasses the entirety of the track's principle mechanic, often fall short of creativity. Or to put it a better way, a way to tell its listener that the reasons behind such usage are justified. Fortunately, Aidan Moffat can sleep easy at night, knowing his purposeful focus on ideas and found sound, was not in vain. The Island Come True presents to us a scene that at times, is pleasant be it with insecurity, or surreal with a lacing of sense to it all. Whether you find yourself focused more on Moffat's lush distortions of string instruments, or his sample-centred outbursts that are part whacky, part human, for both parts, the end result will always be the same. No matter where Moffat leads us, there's a sense of tranquility as much as there is uncertainty. It's this balance of the scales that is clearly evident on this album, whether through its musical choice or even through the choices made in production. And while the listener may feel like they're stuck on the same desert island with the same deserted instruments, it's apparent that there's more to it than what the eye sees on its own.
~Jordan

8.2

No comments:

Post a Comment