Tilman Robinson – Deer Heart

Australia’s Tilman Robinson returns for a second outing with Deer Heart. The sparkling sunshine of Melbourne is a distant thing, though. Ninety degrees isn’t even on the forecast, because the strings emerging out of silence are cold to the touch and as bleak as a dying sun. There’s a reason behind the icy encasement: Deer Heart was mostly written and recorded at Greenhouse Studios, home to label Bedroom Community in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Fluttering notes circle the music, but they could also be shivering in a cold draught of unsettled air. The darker strings of ‘Where We Began’ slowly splinter the music, cutting off and isolating the piano until it has no other choice but to disappear completely. As they swell, their fog-coated intent becomes clearer and clearer until it resembles nothing else but war. The intensity goes up another level. The opening of ‘Pareidolia’ is a fierce punch versed in the hard style of a martial art, landing right in the belly of the track, its poisonous bass resounding and reverberating as it digs in, rumbling through the icy caverns and rushing into the sub-zero waters, and it carries an attack as sharp as Poseidon’s trident. The cold, staccato-stunned electronics are used to this stark, numbing environment; they are forged in its ice.

The soft playing of ‘Her Heart Was Warm (Until It Stopped Beating’) is a subtle subterfuge, because it’s a tender moment which also has the effect of breaking up the assault. Robinson knows when to include and insert something different to keep the music alive – to keep it beating – giving the recording and the listener a brief bit of breathing space in the process. A rest is just as important as a note; stillness is just as important as activity.

Somewhere in the ether, a heartbeat thumps with a dull tone, the insides protected by muscle, tissue and bone. Strings lay across the pulsating beat like an arch of curving ribs, and the piano also gently beats. The alternating, precise rhythm of ‘In the Always’ provides a stable stage for the swirling strings, and percussive layers are added one at a time to the main rhythm. The track is powering up, taking its time to gather the required energy and, as a result, the music has a brutal, almost unstoppable momentum. It’s as powerful as a boxer in the ring. ‘Bathed in Her’ glows softly; field recordings help to layer and shape a sublime shrine where love is written into its marble surface. The crackles are like long, tender kisses that gently sweep the neck of the music, but they could also be interpreted as the sound of splintering ice, creating an intricate, broken network of diverging webs.

‘Yours, Deer Heart’ closes the record. This track veers into the experimental, with a couple of darker, wonky chords drunk on the intoxication of lust. The chord stops dead and then stutters on, but that’s all that anybody does, walking zombie-style through the streets of life without knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s the slow-motion sound of the music failing as it approaches an inevitable oblivion. The silence is more striking here; it will always welcome you back with open arms.

  • Photo by WILK


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