On Lassitude, Lawrence English puts the pipe organ in the limelight, giving it the strongest focus possible. Although it’s featured in much of his previous work (such as Cruel Optimism), never has it taken up residence with so much force and restraint as it does on Lassitude. Situated in Brisbane, you’ll find the Old Museum, which, in another life, used to be the Queensland Museum. Occupying the museum is an organ from the late 19th century, constructed and crafted by Melbourne organ manufacturer William Anderson. The organ’s 28 speaking stops give it individuality and personality, the pressurised air pushing into the organ’s pipes as and when the stops are in use. On this particular organ, the stops allow for very slow tonal shifts and deepening moods.
The first of its two pieces, ‘Saccade’, is dedicated to French electronic composer Éliane Radigue, but it goes deeper than a dedication. Reflecting on the motion of the drone and the progression of passing time, as well as the continued elongation of its sounds, vibrations, and frequencies that are sent into the air, Lassitude is a thoughtful and soothing record. Even though the recording was physically and mentally taxing, the efforts only make the resulting compositions even more stronger and deeper. It’s appreciation and deep respect that one can hear, and her music has had an effect on periods of English’s life, especially when flying – for English, her work has ‘smoothed out the unease of bumpy atmospherics and soothed states of deep exhaustion’.
The second piece takes its influence from American composer Phill Niblock. The composition is slowly drawn out, working with vibrations and emerging rhythms, but also delivering a work of great patience and infinite depth. This piece was recorded in one take, with no editing or processing, making it the first piece English has ever published without any further processing involved. This is vital, because it gives the music a raw authenticity; the power, the subtleties, the progressive movement – and the breathing – of the organ is able to pierce directly. With patience and restraint, English carefully opens up and develops the sound. With the way things are at the moment, respite is essential, and the organ’s deep, resonating tones breathe onto the listener. The second piece in particular feels like a personal gift from English to the listener, a special performance that is able to soothe and pull the listener into its magnetic field with its eternal oscillations.