Keith Berry - The Ear that Was Sold To A Fish [Crouton - 2005]There are things about music that are completely non-musical that give one a sense of trepidation when approaching something new. In contemporary music thereís nothing that puts me off a new artist more than an inflated portentous introduction. Keith Berry is a man in possession of such an introduction.
On his website Keith proclaims:
"I work with blocks of sound in the same way a zen koan might work, in the sense that these "blocks" are supposed to be "triggers" which though they do not contain enough information in themselves to impart enlightenment, may possibly be sufficient to unlock the mechanisms inside one's mind that leads to enlightenment".
After such an introduction you may be forgiven for thinking that inside this cardboard box nestling among a cushion of smally leaves may lie the aural equivalent of the Dalai Lama. Sadly this is not the case, although the CD does come in a box full of smelly smally leaves.
The album is in effect nine tracks of drone related, dark ambient music. The tracks donít have names but are all represented on the two sided insert with a poem. The first track is a slow build-up of distant rumbles and synth drones under which are occasional murmurings like the sound of trees falling. Itís pretty standard fair so far.
The second track which has a poem with the line: "I always dreamed of translating a tangible apprehensiveness into the negation of the present" is not very far removed from the first track. Again the distant falling trees or rocks, again low barely registering tones and low drones. There are also the occasional extreme high frequency just to give you that slight suggestion of a hearing problem. Itís atmospheric but im not converting quite yet.
Things donít take any audible turns until track five where crunchy sounding field recordings fight for attention with otherworldly rustlings and distant drones. There is also a section where the sound of crackling vinyl can be heard.
The seventh piece finally shows some discernable difference with some wooden and stringed instruments being used. Again the same light distant sounding electronics are present but at least here they are set against something different.
Track eight is definitely the pick of the bunch, repetitive piano notes join the percussion and tinitus inducing electronics at the start of the track after which a silence descends and the piece leads into the final ninth track. How ironic that the best track is also the shortest at less than a minute.
The final ninth track is very much like tracks one through six, I really couldnít say more than that.
In all this really is a disappointment. There are a many artists doing this sort of thing, most a hell of a lot better than Keith Berry. The production is the main sticking point for me, it sound flat and lifeless, no one layer stands out more than another and the whole thing blends into one monotone mess. This coupled with the fact that the composition is extremely dull and you donít have a very inviting package. The smally leaves smell nice but the rest reeks of self-aggrandisement.Duncan Simpson