Isnaj Dui – Abstracts on Solitude
Posted In: Abstracts on Solitude, Hibernate Recordings, Isnaj Dui, Isnaj Dui - Abstracts on Solitude, James Catchpole, Katie English
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Isnaj Dui is the mystical alias of flautist Katie English. Quietly placid, and awash in a serene peace, her music weds the calmest of flute (most strikingly, a bass flute), home-made dulcimers and light, unassuming electronics which are kept gently at bay, all of which are largely unspoilt by any type of filtered involvement. All of these effects leads to a calm seclusion of pure beauty. Her first release on Hibernate, Abstracts on Solitude is a quietly stunning work, one which marries largely unfiltered, and therefore purer, instrumentation with tints of electronics. The flute is altered from the instrument’s classically airy imagery to a darker and realistic tone, and it is all the more refreshing for it. Her lulling loops within the music are slowly revolving repetitions which never feel restricted. They remain ventilated in the space with which she plays. One may not become aware of this repetition until the music is almost over and the course is run. It is interesting to note that the pieces continually take careful steps forward, watching where they tread on gentle tiptoes so as not to awaken the electronics underneath, perhaps. Amid the revolving melodies, a sure paradoxical momentum within repetition is revealed. The imagery of the music is equally veiled in mystique. Out of focus circuits and wires are concealed in front of a murky, opaque atmosphere, taken from a film played at one of English’s performances at the Union Chapel. Yet, although the artwork is misty, shaded with gloomy hues and covered in obscurity, English’s music never attracts overcast or somber moods. A deep mysticism unravels itself, arising out of the melodies and pure tones which the flute gives rise to. Never before has this writer been so utterly enchanted by the mellow tones the instrument produces. English is using the instrument for what it is in the truest sense – as an outlet for the soul.
Her flute wavers and sings in the purest aesthetic, one very much born out of nature. The lighter timbre which the flute presents encourages a warm and feathery feeling of reflection, self-awareness and deep thought, and this runs throughout the record. Her contemplative melodies overflow with a deep, thoughtful beauty, arising as if on the wings of a daydream. It is true that the soft tones of English’s flute do carry a dreamy quality, flowing from her flute and almost as vaporous as a thin, vaguely seen mist. Importantly, the restrictions placed upon the glitched electronics – featured only once, prominently – gifts the music a very natural, grounded feel, allowing English’s flute to both caress and command our secluded location. It’s an incredibly earthy sound, eerily rich and mysteriously evocative. Her flute conjures images of distant, open fields; a beautifully hazy and well-lit scenery associated with the summer, which usually attaches itself to the instrument. Yet, the flute here is slightly darker, a dusky contrast to the usually brighter, optimistic timbres, maybe reflecting a lost, naive innocence or mirroring a flute’s slightly more cynical sister. Coupled with her light electronics, it is a distinct sound, yet one in which both electronics and flute live in harmony. It is also music detailing a deep reflection on the spiritual and mental freedom of solitude, and her flute is a symbol of this reflection.
Hauntingly, the flute is taken out of its innocent setting, and all naivety is lost when placed beside the digital electronics. Our solitude is shared only with the music and nothing else.
‘What Lies Inside’ takes grasp of the listeners’ shoulder with the firmest of touches, and demonstrates English’s ability to apply an altered electronic signal and create a consistent rhythm as a lone flute rises above the electronic bedrock. A response to a panic attack, the piece announces itself unlike any other, and it’s the only piece on the album with a distinctly visible, electronic rhythm. Even though it was recorded as an aide to her recovery, the piece positively strides serenely and slowly forward. Perhaps, through the recording process, she has expelled the ordeal. Static glitches leap out like crashing computers crying out a failing signal. Much as red is a danger colour, the electronics and light static snaking underneath the purer flute represent subtle warnings and threats to our inner peace, and they could represent a coming together of youthful innocence and gentle corruption, swirling together in an intriguing, twisting marriage. Not only is her flute’s timbre incredibly refreshing and inviting, the smooth tone of the instrument contrasts the slightly unsettling, dissonant clashes of the glitcy, electronic rhythm, and smoothens the rough edges with a tranquil harmony against a slightly sharper dissonance.
The way the music effortlessly flows into the next creates one, fluid motion, like ripples slowly advancing over a placid lake. In ‘Quarter Wave’, the peaceful nature has increased and enshrouded the relatively excitable electronics wholly, releasing us from their grasp and leading us onwards in our search for absolute peace. In this sense, one could perhaps see these two contrasts as a battleground between two mental and emotional states; a chaotic distress eventually losing out to serenity and tranquility. The flute could be a metaphor for an emotional release of the purest peace at overcoming stressful events, and in listening, English may be assisting us, too. Her calm playing is restrained in its sedate pace, yet the melodies rise and repeat in a spacious meditation. This sense of peace which the flute brings, of being at one with the music, raises an intriguing question as to why the beautifully soft and slightly chilled tones of the instrument are often underused or under-appreciated within ambient and experimental music.
As the sky turns towards dusk, and the peach of the evening sky loses its fading colour, the music steadily awakens an almost zen-like state in the listener.
Sedately, the music truly reflects solitude; a state which is all too often drowned in sombre tones and melancholy. Solitude does not necessarily represent downcast emotions. In reality, it is often a state of self awareness and reflection; an uplifting passage of discovery and accepting truths about our lives. This is captured in the record; we, as the listener, are alone without the fear of loneliness. Wrapped up lovingly, and with reassurance, we can accept who we are.
A darker edge arrives in ‘Peripheral Motion’, where English’s use of a sour interval lurks as the light fails. Arising with a chiming, sinister intent, shrill tones claw at our ears and descend like fingers trailing over the earth. It’s like walking through the undergrowth and foliage of a woodland and coming across a mysterious, oddly-shaped cabin in the woods. A burnt out roar in the distance approaches and grows louder, yet still her flute masks as a hallucination, a mirage which hides tranquil depths amongst the more noticeable dissonance. This finely poised balance between slight dissonance and pure bliss sustains the record, and neither eclipses the other until the end; the pure peace is never far away from rescuing us from the dissonance, and at the same time the dissonance slowly dissolves our peace.
Mystically, like an inviting entrance to a forest seen at dusk, ‘The Last Will Become a Darker Grey’ opens. A green and pleasant woodland where the flute can truly darkly call her own invites us in. This is the point where words begin to fail, as ‘The Last Will Become a Darker Grey’ takes the breath away with absolute caressing force, unparalleled in beauty, both on the record, and, in my eyes, off the record. Our closer is a crescending culmination where the light flute sings with a virtue stronger than any vocal. One could say that the instrument’s tones are a true, natural vocal. All her heart and soul is poured out, resonating around the wind as the flute calls out, playing her song; so still is the mood, one could almost be afraid to breathe. Once the bond is made with the music, it becomes unbreakable.
It is a stunningly tranquil place, one where our hand is gently taken hold of instead of grasped, and we are whispered kind reassurances. Her flute feels a touch heavier, the tone shining a hope of a stronger kind, perhaps weighing heavier as it envelops both listener and the space the instrument abides. It is a silent refuge for the spirit where the electronics cannot slither and close in around us. In my eyes, this is the point we as listeners have been leading towards ever since our departure, ever since our first steps in silent trails through a beautiful countryside, and this piece reaches nirvana. As far away thunder deeply reverberates and gently sweeps and shudders through the music, English’s flute still sings and shines triumphantly through the breeze, with the brightest intensity a love can gift. The ever reaching thunder resounds in the air, like the shivers of loss suffered in the after-effects of losing a loved one, or maybe a relationship not meant to be. Her innocent tones defeat all negativity and lay suspended, drifting in the ether. We have found our solitude.
Abstracts on Solitude is a deeply serene, uplifting experience, and one in which we can delve into and find our own solitude.
- James Catchpole (@UKStratBoy) for Fluid Radio