Stephan Paulus’ Becoming-Dissolve begins with the sound of the rails: announcement, arrival, departure. In this way, it echoes Valiska’s just-reviewed Record of 37, although Becoming-Dissolve is a different beast, a global travelogue in which all lines are blurred, sonic and geographic. Paulus presents the section as an “all aboard”, an invitation to explore the world while traveling through the recesses of the mind.
Because the field recordings are often subtle, one will occasionally need to press Pause in order to ascertain that they are originating from the music, rather than from outside the window. Paulus embeds these recordings in a field of ambience, making it seem as if two albums are synched. The blend is especially effective on “Becoming-Endless”, which comes across as a beat-free version of Banco de Gaia’s “Last Train to Lhasa”. “Becoming-Imperceptible” enters on a quieter note, with unidentifiable stirrings, breathings, and sonic crackles, a white noise rumble and the cries of crickets. Distant bells toll like raindrops; the sleeper dreams, unaware. The title may refer to the sounds buried beneath the sounds, or the sounds undetected. As the track develops, the marginal becomes clear, the rustlings insistent. The dreamer diappears like a phantasm of the environment; the back story becomes the lead. In the final seven minutes (one-third of the track), a beep and drone melody peers from the subliminal like a sprite from beneath a mushroom.
With such a beguiling environment established, it’s a slight disappointment to feel the spell shattered with a moment of indulgence. “Becoming-Molecular” includes the opening bars of Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away”, as practiced on the acoustic guitar. Sure, this arrives nine minutes into a 25-minute piece, but it dislodges the listener’s serenity by making the performer seem entirely present when he had already succeeded in seeming absent. This closing piece should have been known by its rain forest vibe – birds and streams, thunder and drones – but this brief sidestep makes it seem more like a camping trip. Fortunately, the piece has a long time to recover, and the dog and children of the later minutes are a welcome addition. The journey ends with a return to civilization and the feeling that something internal has changed – if not on a molecular level, at least on the spiritual. (Richard Allen)