Disquiet (c) 2005
Tell someone in Toronto, while visiting from San Francisco, how lovely, walkable, vibrant and diverse their city is and they'll say, "Come back in mid-January." Perhaps it's fitting, then, that a netlabel with the uneasy name Dark Winter (darkwinter.com) has released an album of Canadian origin, some of it "initially recorded in various burnt out and abandoned buildings throughout Toronto" earlier this year, the site explains. The album is As Everything Fell from the Sky by ANGELswing, aka Adam Dollard, who perpetrates a uniquely claustrophobic brand of experimental audio. "Maybe Today, Aronud Six" layers piano parts that rub up against each other just beyond the realm of believable live playing, and as a result concentrates your listening on the spare melodies' internal logic. Piano, or piano-like sounds, provide a kind of theme on the album, lending a muddy beat and an out-of-the-blue bit of frill to "As His Muoth Went Dry" and triggering a nostalgia-tinged figure that haunts "It Started Around Elevne." Many of the tracks on As Everything Fell from the Sky embrace rough furrows of abraded sound, such as the slow, dry spacelessness of "There Were No Streetlihgts." Every song title on the album has a misspelling, which the brief liner note at Dark Winter explains is willful. Of course, the music itself takes a far more strenuous approach to unsettling the listener than mere typographical play. Oh, and kudos to Dark Winter for doing something few netlabels think of: recommending key tracks.
David Miller (c) 2005
There is a certain fascination with the corpse of modernity. The husk. That which remains after the vital life essence has flown the coop and headed for bluer skies. It is no surprise that early recordings for ANGELswing's "As Everything Fell From the Sky" were recorded in burned out and abandoned buildings. Though the acoustics of these locations may not have much influence on the recordings, the psycho-acoustic nature is present from beginning to end. When going to the Dark Winter site we are told that this release is out just in time for Halloween, but to say that it is out just in time for the French riots may be more appropriate. Here we have a perfect soundtrack to the rows upon rows of burnt cars we are presented with daily on Yahoo news.
The album's best tracks are those fragments that suggest form or texture but avoid filling in the blanks, leaving the tone of the piece more in the listener's ability to connect dots. "their skin was lkie poison crisco" is my favorite example of this, hints of piano and noise but no payoff. This is akin to staring into the abyss and seeing nothing, no thing staring back. "he found himslef without" and "the rooftops were on fire adn no one cared" are other good examples of this.
When imagining the instruments used on the release I see out of tune pianos missing half their keys, static, bombed out synthesizers and effects pedals on their last legs. The occasional drum machine makes an appearance only to apologetically bow out of the mix shortly after first sight. The man who crafts these mysterious sounds appears as a lab-coated ghost from Cronenberg's early film work. He is not commanding the instruments into action so much as recording their natural decay.
For the musically comparison minded think Boards of Canada with all the wide eyed sense of fun and wonder bled dry. Think 90s era experimental tape music. Think instrumental Hans Edler eaten and regurgitated. Hints of the Hafler Trio. Maybe a little Satie sprinkled in, like salt on a wound.
My primary complaint with "As Everything Fell From the Sky" is a lack of proper mastering. There is a graininess here that mutes the sound. It works conceptually as the factory haze obscuring the land, but also blurs interest. Other thoughts include the projects ability to evoke apathy in the face of destruction, but none of the sex. A frenzied, compositionally tight track right in the center of the release might have fit the bill in that regard.
But these are small complaints and do not get in the way of the overall impact of the album. There goes the neighborhood, one city block at a time, and here is the soundtrack.
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Dark Winter releases are free to download under a Creative Commons License.