Craig Tattersall & Emmanuel Witzthum – Why do those blessed stars…

Why do those blessed stars have to go out one by one, Why can’t we stop time, You and I, And gather all the stars together, Just for us, is a line from Operation Fleur De Lis, a 1947 radio play. Releasing October 11 on Letra, a new label founded by Andrew Hargreaves and Craig Tattersall that allows artists the space to create music for closer listening, the second collaboration between Tattersall and Emmanuel Witzthum continues Letra’s series with an uninterrupted 43 minutes of ambient bliss.

The aim of this sophomore was to create a facsimile of Tchaikovsky’s choral works while still bringing out fresh sounds from the original recording; music of new appearance, but rooted in another century. Rules were put in place – no additional audio was to be written or added, and only a copying and a processing of the original recordings was allowed – and these restrictions make up the only constricted grip on an otherwise spacious listen (the whole point of the label is to give artists space, after all), and the use of the original lends a vital authenticity even as it passes through an ambient haze. Contours are softer; the gradient and colouring differ, too. Digital editing and analogue tapes also help in enriching these sounds, which hover in the ether.

In ambient circles, choral music works wonders. It can rend the heart, piercing it with an unparalleled emotional depth and a generous amount of space. Removed of religious connotations, choral music is light and slim, but it’s still able to float and ascend, naturally wanting to grab a draught or seeking an up-lift and opening itself up to skyward dominions. The choice of Tchaikovsky’s 9 sacred choral pieces was not a random one.

Because of this, the music has both continuous depth and a glowing beauty, and it fits in with Letra’s ethos. This is a record of space, space, and more space; submersion and immersion in equal measure. The bright and warm harmonies are muffled and distant, sometimes edging close to silence and sometimes on the verge of breaking up. But one common theme runs through it all, and that’s the ambient harmony, which is always a Heavenly sound, moving with grace and transparency. It finds itself in the midst of subtle tweaks here and there, but the tones remain similar throughout. If you’re looking for deep ambient listening, you’ve found it.

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