Memory and nighttime are two features of instrumental music that are inextricably tied to deduction, to minimalism, to the gentrification of absurd sound such as the most messy musique concrete, or the craziest space soundscape. My Bloody Valentine paved the way for much of the fractured drone-snaking that oozed out onto the fabric of melancholic production rituals – the desire to go Ambient or minimize the purveying of timbre – in the late 80s, before they (Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher and co) got going as a band, and before Acid House truly took over as a prenuptual agreement to the discipline of the groove in sonic alchemy.
So today, with this background adding a tiny incy wincy bit to the equation of sound as malleable fungi – a corrosive element in the wrong grip, and a element that sprawls its way across the world, in every nook and cranny, and every form of frequency – these matters don’t faze The Necks’ Chris Abrahams when it comes to this kind of experimental epiphany. Winding his way across four tracks in a ‘stand = deliver’ righteousness, the elements trickle, wriggle about, nosedive steel-faced into a cauldron of cathartic ion battery brewing, and all round subliminate their presence in the notion that decay isn’t everything – faith in persistence can be.
“Leafer” starts us out in the noisiest manner you will hear on “Memory Night”. Like a piano raked out by an interstellar quadrant macro, placing blueprints in fourths of intensity to trigger a reactive mesh of angst, it’s one of the most postiviely gruesome constructions I’ve heard in my 15 years of dedicated active music listening. Bypass on creative bottleneck through enriched playing, from the auditoriums of the sonic touch typist, whittling off keys like a possessed shaman. Bass shunts its way across the room drunken but decidedly focused, and this knack for perplexing paradox runs through the rest of Abrahams’ work on “Memory Night”. He’s at once alien as he is deeply human, interpolating and inter-plaiting opposites (machinery, wildlife sounds) so they coalesce into moving material that bears its’ afterglow, like a swan weeding out the bread from busy waters, filled with leaves, branches.
Indeed, the reliance on human nature to create a foci deep enough for these sounds to have credence is commendable, given that it’s not difficult to think of common places to store and replicate predecessors or labelmates. Which gives these sounds all the more glue to do their work on your nerve. “Bone And Teem” is frank musique concrete with piano radiating in a plink / plonk scale tip, while guitar guts the left audio channel. Lower registers intersperse with bright, flary percussion sounds. The piece overall has a continuance of re-entry, a domination of the gate between not seeing or hearing reality.
“Strange Bright Fact” and “Stabilised Ruin”, the two shortest and concluding tracks on “Memory Night”, play up to an idea by Techno producer Ricardo Villalobos when discussing if music is really minimal or not; in the end, it depends on a certain criterion inside a realm of certainty for the classification to be valid. If there were any tune that could be desrcibed as ‘maximal’, then, “Strange Bright Fact” would be it. The touch typist teetering brings us in to reflect on a well of sound that is raw and surprisingly more deep than its’ constituent parts initially suggest. It adapts the intoxicating marriage of distempered doom and nighttime into one electronic swirling banshee. Thoughtful piano chords that recall Harold Budd’s “The White Arcades” – Budd being on the same bill as Chris Abrahams’ group The Necks in the last two years – play atop the sound of an echoed plug being pulled.
Luckily it’s not a plug-puller on the quality of this album, albeit “Stabilised Ruin” sounds like the water that submerged the disc draining away, until it dries at 1 minute 40 seconds, to reveal some delightful Swod-esque warped piano Electronica. The mood is one of memory as a conduit for escape, as if it is necessitated for a previous damage to the fractal core of Chris Abrahams’ muscle memory, and working patterns on this album. “”Memory Night”, concluding, is an excellent, decidedly odd record that if given some time, will repay you for your investment. It should appeal to fans of Harold Budd, Chris Watson and Library Tapes.