After awhile I begin fantasizing about the impossibility of listening to music. If I’ve reached a threshold where slick, then slicker production reaches a limit. To hear it, but have an inability to consume it because of a built-in impasse.
It’s the feeling when flipping through your CDs and realize you don’t want to hear anything. Anything at all, but the sound of nothing. Your friends enthusiastically discuss Tame Impala, and you find yourself tuning out. You take much more comfort in the sound of an engine humming, or the wind slapping against the window. You begin to think you’re psychotic.
Then certain records crop up, and you know you’re not alone.
I’d seen Yellow Swans a coupla times put on by nerdy noise promoters whilst living in the UK. If their performances in a particular room didn’t capture me, at least their albums did. The duo, Pete Swanson and Gabriel Salomon mastered a kind of synesthetic sound, like a cross-sensory metaphor– sounds you can almost taste, colors you can almost see. It’s not really the breed of aural axes terrorizing you, like many noise acts proliferate. Theirs was more characteristic warmth and emotion in a cast of extreme, progressive electronics. Not far off in the distance from artists like Birchville Cat Motel, Fennesz, or Oren Ambarchi. Amongst their large body of work, and dozens of CD-R’s released, their last album Going Places told site specific narratives through complex drones — but shortly after, the duo parted ways with slightly differing visions.
It’s no surprise that Gabriel Salomon’s first solo effort makes a comfortable home in grey forlorn caves of Erik Skodvin’s Miasmah label. As Salomon dangerously treads into new territory, it’s a feeling that he’s making sharp jabs in the dark; and it’s this uncertainty which makes the album compelling, unsettling, and gulp-worthy.
Deep bellied cello sags in the air, hanging like vultures circling around Steven S. Smith’s Cities. A quandary envelopes in a dramatic orchestration of minor key piano, violins, witch saws. Part II and III morph into a down-beat, moody sprawl driven by the sound of buzzards, a bullying bass drum, harmoniums languishing in time. It’s a clear contrast from much of Pete Swanson’s solo work, like Man With Potential (2011) which is more overtly aggressive electronically. His is perhaps a more cold, calculated direction; while Salomon’s drawn-out, contemplative debut suggests his was always the malignant touch of the earthy humane.
Of the two, Salomon reigns in ominous power. Part IV and V returns to a Kafkaesque post-minimalist work, with urgent click-clacks tempered by waves of white-washed echoes. The hammer of the piano, and titt-tattering of the snare in Part VI precipitates a moment of blistering relief, like a film scene when all is washed away by rain. The final track comes to an eerie close as a monotone drone ensues, and a drum roll marches off in the distance. When it finally fades away, the silence encountered is nothing short of deafening.