ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Andrew C. Kidd



Western Edges ‘Prowess’

(Sound In Silence) 10 April 2019


After listening to the eight tracks of Prowess, I am left thinking about Andrew Marvell’s famous poem, ‘The Garden’; in particular, the lines:

“Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,

Withdraws into its happiness”

 

After being overcome by the ampleness of all the fruits and flowers of his metaphorical garden, Marvell eventually found solace in nature (or, rather, through the Greek derivation, meta ta physika: after the things of nature). Marvell was a Yorkshireman and so is Richard Adams, the producer of the deeply meditative Prowess.

Warm pads and a gently repetitive motif introduce You Look So Beautiful From Up Here. It is a sound akin to the opener on Bibio’s ambient masterpiece, Phantom Brickworks (Warp, 2017). The hymnal piece that follows, Suddenly: A Dream, coruscates in the brightness of its light synthwork.

Adams was supposedly inspired by the Aire Valley when writing Prowess. From its tributaries in the Becks of Skipton and Bradford and the Rivers of Worth and Calder, the veiny arm of the River Aire stretches across Yorkshire. He captures the essence of this age-old waterway in his title track, Western Edges; it is a short sketch comprised of unhurried notes that glint like asymmetric, sun-touched ripples on a calm river.

Solid Gold Soul builds upon multiple layers; the sub-bass sings and the shuffle house rhythm is measured. Airy synths float atop it all. The oscillating, singsong sub-bass, augmented by the step-like synth melody, is also worth mentioning on You’re Going To Miss My Love. The track that follows, All Downhill From Here, features heavily processed plucks and piano effects that filter outwards in an expansive blend of polyrhythm and lyrical notes.

Very Good On The Rushes features a synth-heavy dream-sequence backed by more sub-bass. Absence is quietly ambient and minimally techno. The synths on this piece play out in a refreshingly major key and melt into one another. A slightly deeper synth layer heralds a house beat as deep as England and the 4-4 driven bass guitar riff that eventually replaces it is the anchor upon which a syncopated melody can fix; perhaps this an homage to the industrial sounds that would have emanated out of Saltaire in days past. One could even seek deeper meaning from its title, Absence: the idea of being away from something.

Adams has in effect created his own internal garden in Prowess. Using source material and influences that are close to home, he has brought us, the listener, closer to domestic peace. This is a work full of soothing melodies, wistful drones and contemplative rhythms. In our world of busy abundance, we should all consider retreating into gardens like this more often.




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Album Review: Words: Andrew C. Kidd





Welcoming our newest guest writer to the Monolith Cocktail fold, Andrew C. Kidd pens a most philosophical purview of the recently-released About B. collection of reworked and previously unreleased “memory sketches”, by the German-based composer Tim Linghaus.


Tim Linghaus ‘About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings)’
(Sound In Silence) 18th January 2019


“Memory, even if you repress it, will come back at you and it will shape your life”, postulated the lauded German writer and academic W. G. Sebald in what would be his last published interview1. After listening to About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings), I am left ruminating on Sebald’s statement highlighting the inexorable influence of memory.

Memory has been the focus of other experimental musicians. One such project that comes to mind is Everywhere at the End of Time, the bold, six-album series written by The Caretaker, a pseudonym of James Leyland Kirby, that chronicles the gradual diminution and distortion of memory in the context of Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike Kirby, Tim Linghaus does not pursue a linear narrative in his wistfully elegant collection. Instead, his 17 compositions are sketches, or rather, brief snapshots in time that seek to capture the subtle moments that occur in a life.

Although About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings) does not follow a linear course, to suggest that Linghaus considers memory to be non-linear would be incorrect. His interpretation of the linearity of memory, or to put it simply, the idea of memory as a continuum with our self-development in present day being highly influenced by memories of the past and future memories unconsciously being shaped by past events, occurs through a series of recurring motifs. These include the distinct but detached sounds of radio static, the familiar crackle of a vinyl record spinning atop a platter and the muffled warmth of the mechanical assembly of hammers hitting piano strings as keys are pressed. He also captures the often fleeting and frustratingly fragmented aspects to memory through the periodicity of his analogue synth arpeggios and the ephemeral nature of many of the pieces (some are as short as 30 seconds).

Devoid of intelligible words (the dreamy Where Is My Girl does feature a disguised vocal harmony), I do wonder whether Linghaus has opted for the piano as an instrument to represent his ‘voice’. The warm tonality of the piano, or perhaps even temperament (in the piano tuning sense), evokes many emotions. Snow at Franz-Mehring-Platz is melancholic. Anatomy Of Our Awkward Farewell Gestures springs into a slow waltz and contradicts the other pieces around it. The piano notes on Chased By Two Idiots are long and sustained; this track engenders a feeling of darkness which is further augmented by the deep bass-sequence and the glassy drone noises.

People listening to Tim Linghaus will of course draw comparisons to the German-born British composer Max Ritcher, particularly when presented with the complex rhythmic structure on Before Berlin (About B. End Title), the legato played on Jonathan Brandis and the plaintive strings that flood over I Was Atom And Waves (Reprise, Pt. II). The shifts of tone colour on Repetitive Daydream Sequence, Pt. VI (Humboldt University Chemistry Class 1975) are very reminiscent of the American producer Oneohtrix Point Never and his Russian Mind EP (No Fun Production, 2013). The oscillated rhythms of Looking For Dad In Radio Noise (Reprise, Pt. III) and Plaenterwald are akin to the now disbanded group, Emeralds; in particular, their Does It Look Like I’m Here? LP (Editions Mego, 2010).

Of the 17 tracks on About B. (Memory Sketches B-Sides Recordings), 4 are reworked versions of compositions from a previous album. Only Linghaus will know whether he calls the memories that featured on his debut album differently. Alternatively, these recollected memories may indeed be the same, but perhaps on further introspection he felt it necessary to make alterations to the original interpretations to better record their deeper meaning. Nevertheless, memory is a thoroughly complex faculty and an extremely difficult subject to explore and document. I applaud Tim Linghaus in his attempt to preserve his memories in the form of music.



1Jaggi M. The Last Word. The Guardian [newspaper on the Internet] 2001 Dec 12 [cited 2019 February 5].




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