Slow Reels – Farewell Islands

Slow Reels is a record of love. Ian Hawgood’s passion for reel-to-reel tape machines and vintage synths combines with James Murray’s love for strong melodicism and deep textures. Farewell Islands drifts over sustained, sleeping drones and hazy ambient atmospheres which are evocative of the great outdoors, ascending like smoke over a forest. The pair have released one another’s music on their own respective labels, Home Normal and Slowcraft, but their musical collaboration only recently began. While Hawgood was living in Warsaw, he spent long nights with his collection of reel-to-reel machines, pouring over the sound and the special tone it produces; the magic sound. Broken things – both instruments and people – produce special, heartfelt music, it seems. Music that, in its own way, is eternal; magic music.

“I created a number of loops with an old and sadly dying Akai which was noisy and would stutter quite a bit. I also found myself using older tape on cracked reels and the effects of this really helped develop a newer path for my own work”.

In London, Murray added piano, guitar, and synthesizers, helping to form the haunting atmosphere. The record also recalls a fragile ambient, similar to the kind found in Japan, largely due to the thinner, delicate nature of its texture and the infinite depth of tape. Nothing else can really match that – not even the pristine, bordering on sterile digital format (although it’s worth pointing out that the record wouldn’t exist without digital technology).

The older technology gives the music something of an older feel: decades old, removed from this century, even, recessed into the past. The music mirrors this feeling of the old gradually becoming older. As looping echoes continue to cycle with thin, vaporous breaths, they travel on, coming from an ancient place but also seemingly eternal. Clinks and vague clicks are left to form like gathering dust, falling upon the record’s surface. The same dust falls upon the reels. Shimmering, romantic tones offer lovely textures which fold over the surroundings. Farewell Islands is a record of transparency, but it’s also one of surprises. The clear tones are sometimes anchored by heavier tones, rumbling like distant thunder among the music’s other elemental forces, and although some tones are as light as air, Slow Reels manages to display an impressive tonal density.

These islands are “places of meaning to both of us in our lives, found now only out of time…out of reach”.

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