12k Return: Quite A Way Away / Not A Leaf Remains As It Was
Posted In: 12k, Gareth Dickson, Not A Leaf Remains As It Was, Quite A Way Away, Steve Peters, Steve Roden
Comments: No Responses
It’s just over a month since the incredible ‘Ballads of the Research Department’ by The Boats graced our midst…
Mr Deupree is on a serious mission for the new year as the 12k label present TWO new projects from Gareth Dickson and Steve Peters / Steve Roden. We have had the luxury of listening to both albums over the last few weeks and they are simply immense!
Some good news… Those that place early orders (pre-orders start Feb 7th from 12k HQ) will receive an exclusive three track EP (Noon) from Gareth Dickson… Result!
Comp… To celebrate the new releases, we are offering the chance for one lucky winner to receive both albums along with the bonus digital download EP. Simply answer the following question:
- Name the Japanese Tanka poet that featured in Illuha’s recent 12k album ‘Shizuku’.
The comp closes at the end of this week. Use the following contact form for sending in your answers.
Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away
To say that the last few years of Gareth Dickson’s life have been tumultuous would be an understatement. In 2007 he fell in love with a girl from South America, packed up a few essentials from his life in Scotland, and moved to the Argentinian countryside. It didn’t turn all fairy tale at that point, however. While there he was shot at, attacked by dogs, and was involved in a very close call when the passenger plane he took to a little town in the Andes was forced down after an engine caught fire. The bullet missed, the aircraft landed, and the dog bites healed; he survived intact, albeit a little more aware of his own mortality, and a good bit more anxious.
“The bullet in all honesty was never meant to hit” he states calmly, it was a robbery gone wrong and he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The incident in the aircraft was far more terrifying because there was the agonizing time to think and reflect during the plane’s unintended descent. “It’s interesting to find out how you would react in that situation.” Dickson says. “Faced with the possibility that it’s really time up, I felt an overwhelming sense of this having been destiny, that it was impossible that I had boarded this aircraft by chance.”
These adventures are the reason that in the last 4 years Gareth has not managed to record a new album; the last two releases (Collected Recordings, Drifting Falling, 2009, and The Dance, Sleeping Man, 2010) being old material recorded before the trip. They are also the reason that a feeling of heightened alertness and anxiety pervades this new work. If Collected Recordings was in some way a study in melancholy, Quite A Way Away is a decidedly more anxious affair. “Adrenaline,” the first track on the album, opens with the lines “Distant beat, advancing feet, each of us wound within.” and in “Get Together” there is something of confusion, if not paranoia, in the speaker wondering “Who was here before now, were there only you and I all night?”
Given the episodes that lead up to Quite A Way Away it’s only fitting that the album lands on 12k, whose road from stark, synthetic post-techno, 14 years ago, to the textured electro-acoustic ambience of today has been a gradual but well-documented voyage. The label’s flirtations with song structures being fused into its experimentations have defined the label as one to skirt the edges of boundaries and genre labels. But no release has quite stepped out of 12k’s bounds like Quite A Way Away. Yet despite the fact that Dickson’s music is classified as “singer/songwriter” and there isn’t an electronic gadget to be heard anywhere on the album, it’s remarkable how well it seamlessly blends into 12k’s existing catalog. The minimal, fragile, and engrossing sounds of 12k’s well-established brand of experimental music is ever-present in Dickson’s quiet finger-picked guitar and breathy vocals that hang on the edge of disintegration. Quite A Way Away is somehow as much “12k” as it is a step in a totally new direction.
Dickson, who hails from Glasgow, often gets comparisons to Nick Drake but it’s important to mention the influence he takes from experimentalists like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Bert Jansch, and Glenn Gould. His music is characterized by an intimacy gleaned from his dream-like approach to singing and playing guitar as well as the immediacy of being captured shortly after being written by whatever recording device is closest at hand, be it a cassette machine, handheld recorder, or 4-track. His use of analogue delays and reverb add to this soft, spacey vibe. The lo-fi nature of his sound harbors all of the cracks, flaws and rough edges of humanity, soul, and the deeply personal circumstances that surround the creation of art.
Up until this point Gareth had been traveling as one of the mainstay’s in Vashti Bunyan’s touring band which took him around the world playing some of the great venues along the way, such as the Carnegie Hall in New York and The Barbican in London. Vashti invited him to join her after she heard one of his tracks on the FatCat records website. He was also asked by Max Richter to record some guitar for a film soundtrack and has recorded and toured with Juana Molina.
Steve Peters / Steve Roden – Not A Leaf Remains As It Was
In 1995 Steve Peters and Steve Roden toured as a trio with singer Anna Homler; sometimes they would vocalize behind her, and they liked the way their voices blended together. They then spent about 15 years saying that “someday” they should record a voice-based project together. Aside from the physical distance between them, the problem was always: What would we sing? Neither wanted to write or sing lyrics.
Inspiration came in the form of a book of Japanese jisei – poems allegedly written by monks on their death bed – printed in both English translation and Romanized Japanese. Phonetically pronouncing the Japanese reminded Peters of the technique Roden has used of systematically chopping up the syllables in English texts to transform them into sound poems. Since neither of them speaks Japanese, it seemed like a good place to begin.
The two of them applied for a residency at Jack Straw, a non-profit recording facility in Seattle that gives grants of studio time. They had no exact plans other than they intended to avoid electronic instruments, or directly referencing the poems’ literal meaning, or imitating any Japanese musical idioms or “Zen” stereotypes. Culling some of the poems that made references to sound and noting them on 3×5 cards, Peters and Roden sorted the cards into four groups according to the seasons of the year that the poems represented, divided the cards between them, and taped them to their music stands. They then sang random fragments from the various cards – a word here, a line there, maybe backwards, maybe the English translation. They made no effort to keep the poems intact or retain any of their meaning, instead treating the material simply as phonemes to put in their mouths.
All of the music was improvised in the studio, built up one track at a time. They worked intuitively, with no structural guidelines beyond using the texts. Three days later they emerged from the studio, not quite sure what they had done. After letting the material rest for several months Peters and Roden determined that Doug Haire, who recorded the sessions at Jack Straw, was the obvious choice to do the mixing. The album was completed in the fall of 2011.
12k is known to be a label of understatement and restraint, however, Not A Leaf Remains As It Was is arguably the most hushed and delicate record in the label’s catalog. Every sound on the album’s four tracks, be it the artists’ voices, a pump organ or melodica hangs by a thread, played ever so slightly, with utmost care. Noises, created from turtle shells, leaves, and bells shuffle and flutter, as if they are quietly alive, in the background providing a textural backdrop to the sublime tones and ghostly voices.