Monty Adkins - Four Shibusa [Audiobulb Records - 2012]Monty Adkins is a British composer, performer, and Professor of Experimental Electronic Music at the University of Huddersfield. And since the late 1990’s he has released a body of sonic work that deals with slow shifting organic instrumental textures and concrete sounds capes. This new release finds him slowly manipulating clarinet playing & electronics into a mainly mournful & emotional ambient sonic stew.
I’ve always been a sucker for slowed, droned out & bleak wind & string instruments, so when I first heard about “Four Shibusa” I was quite looking forward to hearing it. The release features in all four fairly lengthy tracks that fall between the eight & a half minute mark & just shy of the fifteen minute mark. The four pieces are built around the wonderfully bleak yet darkly soothing clarinet playing of Jonathan and Heather Roche, and their drifting /mournful playing is manipulated & added to by Adkins' electronic textures.
Sadly the whole record is a rather frustrating & ultimately unsatisfying affair; you see both Sage & Roches playing is exquisite, bleakly potent & entrancing. The problem here is Adkins manipulations & added in electronics- they often feel too heavy handed, clunky & overtly noisy for the soothing yet bleak clarinet drones. Most of the tracks here start with just drifting, sad & slow clarinet drone trails, and you really start to drift off into their melancholic haze. But sadly more often then not your dragged back out of said haze by Mr Adkins sudden & non too subtle manipulations, and mostly bland/ unimaginative electronic texturing. Really it’s only the first track “Sendai Threnody”, where Adkins leaves things fairly alone, and when he does tamper it’s done in a subtle and fitting manner.
All told this is a real missed opportunity & a let-down, that’s really being mostly ruined instead of enhanced & deepened by the electronic manipulations. Roger Batty