Spheruleus – Dissolve
Posted In: Audio Gourmet, Dissolve, Harry Towell, John Boursnell, Spheruleus, Spheruleus - Dissolve
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The qualities we might find praiseworthy in pop song music – clarity, certainty, conciseness – are not always what we might look for in experimental music – or at least, that area of experimental music that leans towards the ambient end of the spectrum. Here, unfinished, openness, uncertainty, even vagueness become terms that take on different, positive associations. And while it is not always terribly helpful to put ‘pop’ and ‘ambient’ in different corners anyway, these terms become more pertinent when song meets soundscape – how to judge the strength of one against the other – how to successfully draw from both traditions without diluting either?
Dissolved might be one way of describing the two longform pieces offered by Spherulus’ Harry Towell, but atomised might be more appropriate here. This album is what rain-swept folk music sounds like if you explode it and lay it end to end, complete with a fine coating of ash. If that sounds violent, Dissolve is nothing of the kind – a more sedate, melancholy album you will be hard pressed to find so far this year. The gently picked guitar and wordless vocals on the first side are all that hint at structure – the rest is rain, desolate spaces and warm static.
Submerged creaks hint at traces of other instrumentation, but these only really surface on the second side – bowed strings, radio static, radio voices – easy to imagine these soundtracking the ‘despairing loneliness’ of solitude hinted at in the accompanying sleeve notes. But there is real beauty here, not just bleakness – the warmth of the strings that echo the re-appearance of the voice and guitar figure set this well aside from mere isolationist posturing. The compositional intent and skill with which these tracks are assembled belies the apparent ‘looseness’ of the form, to great emotional impact – a certain amount of which must be drawn from the way the vocals (still wordless) sound both close-mic’ed and distant – a satisfying presence and absence game that places the human experience at the centre of how we listen to music like this. The final quarter of the album is swathed in more static; though the guitar returns briefly, by the end the strings alone are holding single notes – a beautiful approximation of a run out groove, gradually disintegrating.
This album then, is a beautifully indistinct stretched out vision – it is uncertain enough to allow us in to finish its emotional story and it is clear and confident enough to give us forty minutes of atomised, dissolving beauty. – Recommended!
- John Boursnell for Fluid Radio