Through A Vulnerable Occur is a dialogue between the UK’s Seabuckthorn and Australian photographer Sophie Gabrielle. Together, they’ve teamed up for this IIKKI release, a collaboration which ran from June 2019 to early March 2020. The series continues (this is the eleventh release), and it’s evidence of another fine pairing. The instantly-warm drones, which swell up and then recede, are paired with strings, and the result is radiant, regal music, open to brightness and bronze.
Early on, ‘While There By The Woods’ adds a cascade of notes, which produce beautiful ripples as they echo outwards. Reverb-washed melodies and spread chords populate the record, sinking into ‘Or A Morning Blue In The East’ and bonus track ‘I Haven’t Seen Tunis Since’. The acoustic guitar comes close to being ambient through and through, but it also has a strong foothold in experimentation and, of course, folk.
Fingerstyle, bowing techniques and open tunings usher in a lush soundscape. On one side, the music has roots in instrumental folk, but the flip side is wet with reverb, musically open, and incredibly flexible. The air is clear, like a drenched rainforest or the aftermath of a storm. Seabuckthorn’s Andy Cartwright pursues at length and in great detail the enchantment of a strong melody.
Sophie’s fine art practice ‘channels her interest in mythology, spiritualism, and psychology’, which ‘…reflect our sense of self, place, and the ambiguity of memory’. Delving into the world of the unseen – ‘through optics, chemical interactions, and the investigative processes used to photograph something invisible to the naked eye’, her photography goes well with the music’s gentle experimental side and the subsequent obscuring of reality. Sometimes, peace is disturbed. A rusty distortion enters with power and authority, snarling at the forefront, but the strings are still able to emit a faint glow.
It’s enough to feel abrasive, the strings rubbing against uneven bark, replacing the softer ambient texture to be found on its smoother leaves, which grace the tips of trees and live higher up in the music’s register. The distortion breaks up and scatters the sound, producing microscopic details and lining up with Sophie’s photographic vision. Cartwright’s melodies proclaim the unseen, too. Another world waits just beyond the light, lurking on the fringes of sight and the edges of the photograph; no one can see it, but it’s there. People say that seeing is believing, but in this case, listening is believing, too.