Spheruleus ~ Dissolve

Many recordings are born of inspiration, but Dissolve was born of a lack of inspiration, which is not to say that it isn’t inspired.  This two-track outing from Harry Towell (Spheruleus) was birthed as severe writer’s block led him to imagine a richer physical environment than the one in which he lived.  He thought of a favorite photo taken by Richard Outram in Wales: an “ideal home” of which he could only dream.  This misted house then became his muse.

In an odd way, Dissolve serves as a companion both to Spheruleus’ last album, Voyage, and to Paper Relics’ Over Exposure, which Towell recorded with his brother Stuart.  It’s a sonic sibling of the first and a polar opposite of the second.  Over Exposure was an album of memory and warmth, a tribute to a former family home.  Sounds from the house permeated the recording; love and nostalgia were obvious threads.  Dissolve operates from a reverse frequency: the artificial environment to which one is not connected by any tissue.  As such, Dissolve replaces the warmth of Over Exposure with loneliness.

Voyage was a soundtrack to doomed expeditions, and the sound of Dissolve is that of a buckled boat, barely holding on.  “Retreat” contains what could be the creaks of a rocking hull, accompanied by a rising drone.  It begins with repetition – a vocal loop imitating a stuck mind – then introduces the instruments scratch by scratch, piece by piece, before losing them in the murk.  When an acoustic guitar emerges two-thirds in, one thinks of salvation, but then the voice returns as well, still stuck in the Antarctic ice, with no messages on the radio, only static.

This static – which occupies both tracks – is one of the album’s most endearing features.  It’s odd to listen to this recording in the digital medium, as it was intended for tape or vinyl; but the crackle is pre-embedded.  To listen on an old, sputtering laptop – the modern equivalent of a radio transmitter – might lend the album that air of physical authenticity.  As Dissolve progresses, one thinks again of that photo on the cover – the idealized, yearned for destination – and wonders, what is it like to yearn for isolation?  Those who have ever felt too crowded, too stressed, or alone in a crowd are likely to understand.  As “Retreat” comes before “Dissolve”, it’s easy to think of Towell wishing to retreat from his current situation before dissolving in spirit.  Thankfully, a new home and more inspiring environs are on their way.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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