Lawrence English & Stephen Vitiello - Fable [Dragons Eye Recordings - 2014]Lawrence English and Stephen Vitiello have both been involved in making avant garde, deep listening and ambient music for more than a decade, English being the founder of the Room40 label (often compared to 12k or Touch). They released an album of field recording derived art ambience entitled "Fable" on Dragon's Eye Recordings in 2014.
The first 3 tracks are a blurry, muted swirl of processed xylophones, chimes, and bells, nostalgic scenes in the mind's eye movie, fleeting images in pastel shades, half-formed thoughts. The feeling is a hazy Gamelan-derived sedation, a partial awareness colored with the thick humidity of tropical air, producing a restful effect, but certainly representative of the mystery as well, an opaque sheet of fog, of steam... Meditative, singular in its dwelling upon this shimmering palette of mid/high register metallic sounds, a flotsam of loops morphing and swelling into new densities and distributions of frequencies, drifting at generally consistent speed, a liquid current flowing reliably down established channels. Many sounds are reduced through intensive filtering to muffled resonances and harmonics, revealing and distilling their dominant overtones into a curious quasi-tonality.
I've heard other artists strive for this kind of vintage, windswept, faded polaroid feeling in their music, such as Biosphere with the "Dropsonde" album. Imagine the look of christmas lights through mostly squinted eyes. It is comparable to the washed out sound of this recording. A crackling tape saturation creeps into many moments, revealing the use of analog equipment.
The album opens up into a new world of textures halfway through with "Forecast the Dawn". The soundspace becomes a three dimensional machine laboratory or scrapyard with electric light buzzing, robotic chittering, scraping, and rattling and acqueous undercurrents of resonance. I wouldn't be able to pinpoint the exact origin of these sounds, but they are a delight to the mind. Cold, vaguely threatening mechanistic processes are paired with surprisingly beautiful melodic wisps and tinges in a mesmerizing luminescent field.
"Tender Unison", the final piece, is a sentimental, heart-warming murmering of faint guitars and pianos, a warm ocean of reverberation, intermingled with a bed chirping bugs and wildlife, the traditional sonic signature of nighttime. It sounds much like Alio Die, one of my favorite artists and one of those to break ambient out of the formulas established by Berlin school music and Brian Eno.
"Fable" is a satisfying inkblot of consonant resonances, a tasteful and pleasantly listenable iteration of freeform art ambient music, never sparse or sluggishly paced. It's a concise recording, roughly 33 minutes in total. It is meant for active listening, and I find it quite easy to play through as a whole. The album is full of ear pleasing sounds, and each of the roughly 4 minute movements is complimentary to the others.Josh Landry