Sound Bytes : Imprints, Steve Gibbs, Matthew Collings and Fraction

Data Trails
Imprints is a trio from London, and Data Trails is their second release (after a two-part self-released début) on the Welsh Serein label. The album is broken up into five pieces, and it starts off beautifully with the twelve-minute “Horror Birds”. Patient listeners will no doubt be rewarded as it progresses from a faint, droning murmur to a gorgeous, understated arrangement for guitar, bass, and electronics. To me this sort of splits the difference between post-rock acts like Tortoise and the gliding vibe of Emeralds, but without the jazz leanings of the former or the synth arps or guitar sprawl of the latter… The two longest pieces here are probably my favorite, wherein the trio has plenty of room to roam, taking their time as their ideas unfold gradually. It’s an album best experienced in proper sequence, start to finish, as the group takes listeners on a journey with peaks and valleys along the way that are well worth attentive listening. After “Horror Birds” reveals itself to be quite lovely as an opening piece, it’s complemented heartily by a slow, patient upright bass on “Longshore Drift” (appropriately named), its strings buzzing against the casing while harmonics and some light sequencing quietly glide in the periphery. But perhaps the most stunning piece is last, succeeding largely by virtue of its relationship to the four that precede it. “The Sea & Electricity” reveals the trio to be quite capable of lovely, melodic, and harmonious sound as delayed guitar and bass recall the most gorgeous moments of Mogwai‘s repertoire, a live drum kit revealing itself over time as it builds into a full-bodied, sweet finale.

Steve Gibbs
Adrift is the début solo album from UK-based composer and musician Steve Gibbs. It follows the release of the collaborative EP In Passing with Cyrus Reynolds in 2013, which was warmly received for its elegant and affecting fusion of modern classical and ambient and subtle electronic elements. With Adrift, Gibbs takes us further down that path as he serves up seven tracks that feature dampened piano and strings draped in translucent layers of electronica, some of which have been composed as scores for short films and other special projects. The title track and “Patterns” remind me the most of the work with Reynolds in In Passing, both bringing the electronic layer more to the foreground to weave a gauzy web through which the piano and strings traverse. The overall tone is wistful and introspective, but there is warmth and light as well, particularly in “Bokeh” which features a warm acoustic guitar and bright melodic conclusion. Among the tracks already featured in other projects are “Råklipp”, a lovely solo piano piece which is featured in short film of the same title by Norwegian filmmaker Håvard Fandrem, and the evocative “Contention”, which was used in a film about the shooting of “The Cabinets of Curiosity” from the Frozen Tale series by fine art photographer Alexia Sinclair. The album concludes on a reflective note with the pensive “Low Light” and “Evoke”, an especially moving track with its resonant swells of plaintive strings. Adrift is a lovely gem of a record, beautiful enough to hook you on the first listen, and sophisticated enough to make you want to keep it in heavy rotation.

Matthew Collings
Silence Is A Rhythm Too
Matthew Collings has not only recorded and performed as a solo artist, but also worked together with Jasper TX, Talvihorros and Ben Frost. He has been performing live using custom-made software, and composed movie scores – such as a live score for “Man with a Movie Camera. Silence is a Rhythm Too is his second solo-album, and it turns out to be quite different from its more ‘minimalist pop’ predecessor Splintered Instruments. Right from the first track it’s clear that we’re leaving the ‘ambient’ territory here to drift into more experimental sonic landscapes. A lot of the sounds are from acoustic sources: Collings “avoids working with computers – only using them for convenience, not as a principle.” There are brass ensembles, a string quartet, but also “prepared amplifiers and electronics pushed to the extreme. Collings interest is musically based on huge densities of sound just as he’s fascinated by opposing forces to wrestle with each other.” On the album, (the title referring to a 1980 Slits song called “In the beginning there was rhythm“), noise and silence are mutually related, representing life and death, respectively. The album is full of intricate details to be discovered while moving from one climax to another, “as it is about harmony and physicality in the moment where silence and noise meet“.

Fraction is a project of Eric Raynaud appearing on Infiné since his Superposition 12″ – which I happened to notice back in 2008. Afterwards, there was a self released digital-only, Recif (2009), which originally this French label streamed on its site, but other than that, I believe Dromos EP is the first reappearance of Raynaud’s work on the scene. The five tracks offer a glimpse into a complex mindset behind the concept, often beginning on one path and progressing into completely another. This is unclassifiable experimental electro-acoustic music, with spoken word, varied percussion, and a very eclectic palette: synths, harps, and violins mixed with world sounds of sarod and tambura. And then there is that pulsating bubbling rhythm. Born out of an audio-visual performance premiered at Montreal’s MUTEK in 2013, Dromos archives the sonic portion of this experience. “Inspired by ‘Dromology’, the science of speed devised by French intellectual Paul Virilio, the performance consisted of eight coherent aesthetic segments that distort the visual and sonic properties of the environment to immerse the audience, placing them at the centre of a 360° multichannel sound system combined with projections.” Now if only I could have witnessed this showcase live.

Imprints review by Ear Influxion
Steve Gibbs review by Stationary Travels
Matthew Collings review by
Fraction review by HC