Voder – Motes
Posted In: Distance Recordings, Fred Nolan, Motes, Paul Nadin, Voder, Voder - Motes
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The source instruments may be built of strings instead of keys, but synthesis is still the best description. There is electric guitar, bass guitar, even a Vietnamese drone instrument called the Dan Bau, but the sounds are boosted, compressed, filtered, pulsed, or otherwise deranged using a myriad of effects, both brick-and-mortar and virtual. Such a description may seem an excessively prolix way of otherwise concluding “ambient,” but there is a certain ethic to the composing that transcends the category. The heights here cause nosebleeds, and the depths, nitrogen narcosis. The spaces, agoraphobia. As ambient releases go, this one is remarkably tangible. And from a relatively unknown talent.
Voder is the alias of Brighton-based Paul Nadin, and Motes is its fourth album (Nadin takes the project name from a mostly-forgotten Bell Telephone Laboratories creation: the human speech synthesizer that Bell introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair). When asked for a glimpse into his composing method, Nadin replied with this example: “One of the instruments I built especially for Motes was a Random Grain Sampler unit that uses random number generators to control various parameters which seems to produce some nice results. Creating instruments that function using elements of randomness was a bit of an obsession when writing Motes. Giving an instrument a little free will takes the linearity out of a sound giving it much more depth, I think.” It’s an inspiring concept: the self-determining synthesizer.
Those familiar with Nadin’s work will know of Fields, a 2010 album largely written around the gorgeous two-part, nine-minute title track. “Fields 1,” but especially “Fields 2″ are somehow massive and embracing at the same time: a shower of celestial heat. Motes perpetuates the scale and the analog warmth of its predecessor, but offers much more diverse terrain. In the liner notes, Nadin describes the new album as “audio sketches based on my nostalgic experiences of people and places close to me.” The description rings true: individual cuts have much more distinct personalities this time around.
Opening track “Approach” is the largest, and likely the most familiar for those listeners already acquainted with Fields. Here is a perfectly blank canvas that the paint gradually reclaims: slowly filling with a dark and static undercoat, a surrounding, higher-register oscillation, and faraway, distorted guitar notes that need several measures to resolve. The tension is unwieldy, and added volume seems the only relief. The ten-minute exploration “Siena” briefly plays as a cinematic piece, with an abstract pastel base and vaguely percolating melody, until the track settles into an extended (Dan Bau?) drone segment, peppered with fragile harmonics and slowly fading to quiet.
This isn’t all prettiness-for-its-own-sake, either. The six-minute “Knot” is almost Gordian in variety, featuring abstract, boiling water-processing and a white noise coat. The two sounds face off until the four-minute mark, where the abrupt cessation renders the noise conspicuous in absence. Nadin returns to this gurgling-and-static pairing with “Cine Dust,” where the distorted lead guitar — complete with tremolo bar and sustain pedal — actually sounds briefly like a distorted lead guitar.
The strongest piece is “Momentary Blink,” which Nadin describes as the “odd track out,” given that its creation comes “from a field recording of a particular location.” You’ll be hard-pressed to pinpoint the sample. Instead, the track fades in almost immediately to a probing reverse-guitar riff, layers of aurora, and distinct waves of synthesizer (again, “synthesis” might be the better word, strictly speaking). The work is slow, full-bodied, and vaguely troubling: the opposite of the song implied by the title.
Distance Recordings is offering Motes as a free download. At times the netlabel movement tenders their lesser-known artists with a sort of wink-nudge je ne sais quois, but try to resist any negative connotations attached to the term “free.” Instead, think of Motes as priceless.
- Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio