Yann Novak – Stillness

American composer and artist Yann Novak returns to 901 Editions with Stillness, his fourth release for the label. It comes in the form of a book and CD, documenting the history of Stillness, a series of works which ran from 2010 to 2017.

Novak has to date inhabited two different  states with two opposing climates, despite both running along the West Coast: the subtropical in Los Angeles and the oceanic in Seattle. Stillness lives in between the two, sharing deep contrasts and marrying polar opposites: one drone is clammy, praying for rain, while another will wait patiently for the dispersal and eventual clearance of an overcast sky. Featuring horizon-photographs and shortwave radio signals tuned to static from each location, Novak captures both climates and the relationship of that climate to the local atmosphere. It entangles with the region, no matter where that may be.

Despite cultural differences and fluctuations in temperature, the two areas share something other than the kiss of the sea and a coastal location: they share almost-static meteorological states. The clouds in Seattle refuse to lift, resembling June’s forlorn London sky, while palm trees swelter in a soporific daze just east of Sunset Boulevard. A breeze may come in from Santa Monica, but it isn’t enough to drive away the sizzle of the sun at high noon, and a drifting drone lulls the listener with a prolonged siesta, drooping in the face of ultra-bright sunshine.

The clouds bring depressed feelings – pressing upon the listener, altering emotions and minds. The drone of ‘Oceanic’ is cool enough for a sweater, echoing like a lone foghorn. It comes as quite a shock after the initial suntan, like landing at a rainy Stansted Airport after a two week stay in Ibiza: a super-soaker of a change, a cold shower that erases the tan in an instant.

But let’s not forget one thing – we’re still on the coast. As such, low clouds encase and roll over the listener, replacing the vanilla of a cirrus cloud with the gunmetal grey of ground fog, streaming through the fingers with their ungraspable vapours. The drones are the epitome of stillness: not budging, adamant, and stubborn. Even though the seconds continue to tick, time seems to stop. The climate doesn’t run to a schedule: it only moves on when it moves on. As such, Stillness lives outside of time, moving slower than the slowest of slow motion to the point of never moving at all.


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