Music Reviews

The purpose of this page is to provide added exposure to musicians I respect. The bar is set high. To pass Landschaft quality control, the music must be of a quality that meets or surpasses the standard that would secure them a commercial recording release, and/or that I feel an itch to do a Landschaft mix of. I do not review everything they produce - see the band's own websites for complete chronologies - what I review is what I encounter, when I encounter it.

Horchata: 13 August 2008

website: Horchata homepage

website: http://www.darkwinter.com/

Metadata: Heterocera by Horchata (Mike Palace). Overview: Soundscape; concentrated, evocative, primal. The album is available as a high bitrate MP3 from Darkwinter

Isolated House: Isolation: Involuntary exile or safe harbour, shelter in a sea of emptiness. This is the fork in the road that this album confronts the listener with. Not a challenge, but a push from behind, a prompting assisted by the sonic metaphors that unfold; adding to the association upon completion of each piece within the collection. For this reviewer, that association, stark: of memories buried by the passing of time. Where isolation means a house surrounded by city sprawl, but separated by walls of difference. Each piece, a segment. A room or space in a once inhabited, but now decrepit building, painted dark punctuated by occasional unfolding snatches of melody drifting in and out of the tone-scape. Occasionally shafts of light lift the soul, balancing the work, adding poignancy to the more sorrowful shades.

Track 1, "Yard": A question without an answer. A two-note cry amid colliding circles of happiness and regret. Rags of curtains seen flapping from broken windows like rotting crow's wings on a gibbet. The signature of humanity fugitive, fading.

Track 2, "Hallway": Darkening. The move to interior space. Where unanswerable questions lie behind doors rusted shut, refusing arrival or departure.

Track 3, "Kitchen": Mother-womb, where warmth survives, where memories, and ghosts draw comfort from the still-remaining, but fading pulse of the past.

Track 4, "Dining Room": Tatters of flock wallpaper fool the eye. Shadows play over floorboards, carpet-less, unforgiving in their loneliness. Except footfall traces mark a journey, a tracing mark of remembrance from another visitor, or perhaps myself.

Track 5, "Bedroom": The cycle of life and death are etched in stains on a mattress propped against a wall.

Track 6, "Living Room": Christmas-eve, the family gathers in anticipation; a wake, in mute desolation, a birth where the spirits lift in expectation. But now, as plaster falls from the ceiling and a photograph lies face down on a chair by the wall, no-one survives to remember.

Track 7, "Stairs": Where footfall marks time as days begin and end. Years pass, punctuated by sunrise and sunset.

Track 8, "Basement": Naked roots penetrate walls grown to earth in their years. On shelves, jars of preserves, labels rotted to nothing - solid fossils, a hand extended down time, a vestige of humanity that refuses annihilation.

Track 9, "Backyard": The echo of children. Their energy pushing back time, drawing from an un-emptying well of hope. Fading chalk marks, unfading souls, risen in their boundless optimism to their place in heaven.

The Heterocera collection is a distillation of works created between 2003 - 06, a reductive process has been applied that has defined the sonic spaces, much as a sculptor defines the outline of a statue. Taking it's inspiration from the heterocera (moths), sub-order of lepidoptera (the higher order in the taxonomic classification tree). In general terms, the butterfly (order-partner of the moth) is a creature of the light, heterocera are beasts of the shadows, seeking concealment and favouring the night. Thus the metaphor is drawn for Horchata's subtle, minimal work of slowly shifting tones and camouflaged harmony. I would hesitate to use the term "ambient" to describe this work - an analogy here to the taxonomic controversy defining moth and butterfly - it is, in a more drilled down sense, soundscape - the sonic equal to colourfield painting - and here where the shades are grey and muted browns. There are ambiguous field recordings amongst clouds of pink noise and tectonic slabs of sound. And dialogs between percussive glitches that infuse the work with a sense of the natural landscape, but without resorting to the cliché. It is all done with panache and painstaking understatement. This reviewer works using reductive techniques, and the process of selection, removal, replacement, modification is mentally intensive and Horchata demonstrates a mastery of the technique here, where everything is stripped back to the minimum, yet retaining the essence of the original. Below, some stream of conciousness impressions of the soundscapes - resorting to a banal description of the literal would do no justice to their subtlety.

Track 1, "Scale" (5:22): Crescendo/diminuendo; mantra-like subliminal melody. I could listen to this on loop all day. A pianissimo of wave-call and response almost vanished among the upper canopy of a lightning blasted rain-forest.

Track 2, "Nocturnal" (8:21): Wings; curves in mirror image, beating in micro-volume. In cunning disguise of owl eye and claw. Or flattened in landscape mimicry. A metaphor of concealment and disguise.

Track 3, "Stemmata" (10:07): Drone of micro-whorls, a fingerprint of tone. Punctuations; join and rejoinder. A pyroclastic flow in slow motion of self-similarity, fractal like, massive or microscopic with no reference point for size.

Track 4, "Chrysalis" (5:03): Shadow-play and the beating of wings. Around a single light bulb, static on a long wire, a stopped metronome. Night and day, sun and moon. So does the leaden weight of time bear on this pin-head of noise.

Track 5, "Perching" (8:48): A meditation, immobile, fixed. Super-sensitivity the only translator of difference. A kaleidoscope of greys phosphorous-aflame in a plan of symmetry, or lichen growth on stone burnished by wind. A dilemma of question marks; a collective noun released from a moebius loop of uncertainty..

Track 6, "Venation" (10:54): Broken conversation. Interruption. Fracture. Video image breaking up. In the gas chair in a slowed-down world of the not quite there. Aurora Borealis of the inner-ear. Word spaghetti for the dispossessed in a tangle, an enigma that is come and gone in frame to frame transition. Noise static from the sum total of mankind..

Track 7, "Ditrysia" (5:47): An insect caught, trapped in amber, in stasis captured on a wingbeat. A museum of stone, a mausoleum of coincidence in a timeline of chance.