50 For 2010: No. 25
Posted In: 50 For 2010, Desire Path Recordings, Ritual, Solo Andata
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‘Ritual’ is Solo Andata’s third full-length album and also the inaugural release for the Buffalo-based label, Desire Path Recordings…
Solo Andata certainly need little introduction here – their previous albums, Fyris Swan and their eponymous effort from 2009, are well known around these parts. Their most recent work has been awaited by many, and points to a continuing maturation in sound. Their willingness to hide their light under a bushel (to push the component elements almost completely to an inaudible level at points) is a risk rewarded, and displays a confidence in their listeners that is sure to be appreciated by the ones who “get” this approach.
The four tracks that comprise this release are labelled as ‘sonic topographies’, and that’s accurate – they create a sense of place and location, mainly achieved with the very vivid wildlife and environmental recordings that occupy much of the record. The further elements that make up this architecture are described as organic sounds – such as primitive gongs, bells and bowls, sacred chants, cleavers, and prepared piano. The release also make mention of use of “the vibration of human cancerous cells”, which fairly boggles the mind and deserves an explanation of some sort, surely?
The mix is in most instances fairly minimal; there’s a good balance of build and decay, and the tracks peak in intensity effectively. It sees a strong cinematic lean – it’s not hard to imagine it as soundtrack to a number of film genres.
It went with me on a drive through the bush early in the day, and the start of the record put me in mind of someone waking in the outback in the morning – possibly amnesiac, not knowing how they arrived there, and slowly making their way through grey terrain. You can hear them finding abandoned homesteads on their way, all human life gone, a total mystery; a post-apocalyptic whodunit.
That’s not to paint it as too grim, but there is certainly an eerie air to it. Plenty of restrained menace, and a high level of energy and intrigue also.
“Aggregate” is a slow burn as an opener, instantly identifiable as wilderness recording. The insect noise appears to be the catalyst for the instrumentation, following its timbre and building to piercing drone amongst the blowflies and cicadas. It is a demanding listen, not background noise by any stretch of the imagination. The intensity does fade towards the tail end of the track, leading nicely into the next. Certainly a good ear opener, and it sets the tone well.
“Carving” is a collection of metallic tones that swirl around the speakers, accompanied by low-level static and rustling buzz. If I was to continue with the lost amnesiac/post-apocalyptic theme, this would be the arrival in a deserted town, accompanied with howling wind.
The overall recording quality is very apparent here – when the surges in the track recede, the space in the mix is quite noticeable. The mastering by James Plotkin is worth mentioning in a very favorable light. Production on the album is clearly considered, and the mixing is a strong point.
“Myrmercia” is passing through town, onto the road again. There’s a desolate tone to this one, like decay has set in and is visible in the environment. A lot of the high tone droning feels as though it’s coming from a distance, from a point not quite visible yet but in the immediate vicinity. The track clocks in at five minutes, the shortest on the record.
“Incantare” is the epic closer, weighing in at a considerable twenty minutes. To conclude the cinematic metaphor, the visuals to this one would be the arrival at the destination. Easy to imagine a deserted city with scattered bird flocks and wandering wildlife at street corners, no evidence of any occupied metropolis here at all. The track title apparently translates as ‘to chant’ (a magical spell upon), which derives from ‘in’, into, unto and ‘cantare’, to sing. It’s listed in the credits as being written by Kane Ikin, with the previous three credited to Paul Fiocco. This track does seem to have a different texture to it, whilst still matching the mood of the others; if anything there seems to be a more musical tone to this track, whereas the ones preceding it had very much been audio architecture.
The vocal samples, feedback and clattering gongs in the very far distance fade in to almost total silence in the middle, before a heartbeat brings the protagonist back to life. Whilst driving, the intricacies of this piece faded away behind engine noise, and it wasn’t until I had a good listen to it with headphones later that night that the intent behind it became clear. This has some downright disturbing undertones to it, and if the hero of the piece is coming to his destination, it doesn’t sound like a happy ending.
Overall? The work is still unmistakably Solo Andata, but points to a more defined, cinematic approach whilst still retaining and refining the minimalist qualities that marked previous releases.
Ritual is being released on vinyl in limited quantities – 450 regular LP’s, and 50 Limited Art Edition with hand-made copperplate etching, each print inked by hand and printed by Christopher Koelle, released this month on September 30th. There is also an “Edition of One” release on the site for those with several hundred dollars to spare, and a burning desire for completism.
Desire Path also mention that anyone who preorders the “Ritual” LP from their website will get a free, immediate download of the album as well as the high-resolution cover art and desktop wallpaper images.
- Review by Alex Gibson for Fluid Radio
Available through Desire Path Recordings