Monday, 5 April 2010

JOHN LUTHER ADAMS – The Place We Began

“…To return to the place we began and know it for the first time…” is both a quote from T.S. Eliot and the root of this enthralling offer by John Luther Adams. A couple of summers ago the composer found a number of boxes full of previously utilized reel-to-reel tapes, dating from the early 70s; he decided then of reassessing the material in order to create “new soundscapes from the fragment of my past”. You may assume a theory similar to that which brought William Basinski to the generation of the majestically regretful Disintegration Loops. Yet this record does not evoke anything analogous, in that these newly generated pieces – though containing echoes recalling something that’s achingly missing – present an alternance of nebulousness and more visible details (such as in “In The Rain”, characterized by partially intelligible field recordings) which, after opportune treatments and instrumental additions in the studio, delineate the music with a completely original morphology. The final results are dyed with the type of tonal paleness that - once connected with an emotional state - elicits dejection and faith at the same moment.

Neither Adams specifies the sources that were used, nor he lists the instruments chosen for their enhancement. All we’re left with is a sonically amorphous plan, its development largely articulated in successive aural sunsets and repeated chiaroscuro junctions achieved via a superior management of the frequency spectrum, making the most of the originator’s ability in fusing heart-piercingly subdued tones and spectacular subsonic activity. This generates an impressive display of different types of pseudo-stasis, in which fundamentally inert dynamics get nourishment from the inside, as it happens with the minor undercurrents that are distinctly felt between the toes even when bathing in the calmest waters. The gradations discerned in the title track and in the initial “In A Room” summon up ghosts of bowed vibraphones and rubbed glass, whereas in the masterpiece “At The Still Point” the speechlessness caused by a fantastic reiterative evanescence juxtaposed with other colours of this misleading palette (possibly including piano, but you’re never sure) compares this chapter’s inward-looking temperament to the finest pages of perceptive minimalism, the absence of recurring geometries notwithstanding.

A wonderfully understated album by an equally elusive artist, who leaves the essence of sound doing all the speaking. Like in the best dreams, which inevitably fail to materialize.

Cold Blue