Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Andrew Liles - Black Hole: Forming Part Two of the Vortex Vault (2007)

In 2007, British sound artist Andrew Liles rummaged through his collection of home recordings and decided to release all of them in a twelve disc set, with one album coming out each month for a year. Like a fool, I only acquired seven of these wonderful recordings before the extremely limited editions all sold out. In any case, I intend to review all the ones I have (not right in a row, don't worry) because they are all worth listening to for any fans of strange music.

The amazing thing about these discs is the sheer variety of sounds to be found on them. Culled as they were from years of experimentation, it shouldn't be surprising that these tracks have a lot of different things going on, but the fact that Liles can be so diverse and yet somehow retain a consistent sound and create a coherent album (actually, twelve coherent albums) is amazing. This volume consists of primarily short tracks with the longest coming in at just under six minutes. Liles is fond of minimal ostinatos and a number of songs feature little more than a repeated, invariably haunting melody. Vocal samples are used to great effect, particularly on my favorite track on the record "Hello, Pharaoh."

"Hello, Pharaoh" consists primarily of a woman singing the title in a sort of night-club jazz style, with a backdrop of crackling vinyl and brooding harmonium. The atmosphere created by this simple combination is breathtaking, even though it lasts a scant two and a half minutes. Elsewhere, ambient drones and dark rumblings take center stage. Actually this particular volume is a lot more ambient than some of the others, but of course that isn't a bad thing. There's some spooky lounge inspired vibraphone ("Sequential Dreaming") and glitch-like electronics that are meant to imitate a dentists tools ("Root Canal") and of course what record would be complete without samples of elephants trumpeting, african druming and tribal chanting ("Without Anaesthesia")?

As we all know, I like my music sublimely weird, and while not everything here fits that description, the series as a whole has so many wonderful oddities and non-sequiturs that it has become one of my favorites.

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