50 For 2010: No. 2
Posted In: 50 For 2010, Plinth - Music for Smalls Lighthouse, Second Language Music
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‘Music For Smalls Lighthouse’ is a quite remarkable record. It represents not only a wonderful creative output by its recording artist, but also continues a trend set by its label in producing a product that represents more than just music. Composed and performed by Plinth, the moniker of musician Michael Tanner, here is a collection of tracks that embody all that there is to love about experimental music; a combination of classical instruments, field recordings and expertly crafted packaging.
Indeed it is the housing of the record that one first notices. The CD is contained within a ribbon-bound book which contains a short story. The narrative, which forms the inspiration for the music provided, tells the tale of two men who leave the Welsh fishing port of Solva to take position as Lighthouse Keepers at Smalls Lighthouse some twenty miles off land. After tragedy strikes, killing one of the men, the story delves into the other’s struggle to remain sane while dealing with the loss of his companion as well as his isolation out at sea.
The prose, written by Michael Tanner and Dianne Allton is simple, yet engaging and is beautifully printed onto recycled paper complete with additional imagery and crafted designs. The impact of all this is an atmosphere that is created before any music has even been played which sets an unusual and engaging tone for what is to follow.
Throughout the record is a consistent reference to weather, with field recordings of rain and crashing tides often setting a backdrop to the instrumentation. On opening track ‘51°43′.23 N 05°40′.10 W’ these sounds are balanced by a lullaby of dulcitone, while recorded gales are reflected musically through Plinth’s use of pump organs. By contrast on ‘Dawn Reflects in the East’ a collection of strings and bells provide a straight instrumental piece here giving the listener a panoramic, birds eye vision of coastal communities. One is drawn closer to this sense of rural life in ‘Message in the Village’ which sounds like the noises of a village folk song trapped within a washed up bottle as the noises of the coast mesh with church bells and strings.
It is this honest approach to sound creation that makes this record such a joy to listen to and as with other Second Language releases, feels like a slice of Britain has been carved and pressed to CD for the listener to enjoy at will. That said there are eerie moments to be found across the record, and again one senses this music as being from a time frozen in Britain’s past. This is clear on the mysterious glockenspiel sounds of ‘Solicitude,’ the rain swept ambience of ‘The Beckoning Arm’ and the surreal humming contained within closing track ‘Sirens.’
In addition to this great album and short story is a numbered photograph highlighting the limited nature of this record; with only 150 in existence. Also included is a free 10 track 3″ CDR of demos for the album entitled ‘Flotsam.’ Overall one can feel a true marrying of the artist and his label where attention to detail, quality production plus a treasured output of sound and packaging is displayed together in a clear unison.
- Review by Josh Atkin for Fluid Radio