Hailing from Birmingham, UK, John Hanson is The Resource Center. Hanson’s work has appeared on Static Caravan and 4AD, as well as current label The Geography Trip. Upon my first couple of listens to Low Fantasy I was immediately reminded of Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack for Amelie. Hanson’s array of instrumentation includes glockenspiel, xylophone, electronic manipulation, piano and what I swear is a pump organ. He arranges them in the same whimsical fashion as Tiersen’s illumination of romantic wonder. It is hope, wonder, tinged with the lachrymose.
Hanson isn’t aping Tiersen. In fact, I would bet this is incidental and a product of compositional and instrumentational stylistic similarities. “Round (Music)” is particularly reminiscent of that heartwarming soundtrack. Staccatoed patterns overlay each other, creating a smooth, bobbing flow out of all the choppy little quarter and eighth notes. Even a toy piano makes an appearance, pulling on many a memory of clanging away at one as a child myself; an earnest, failed attempt to yank a melody out of the toy. With “Round (Music)” it is all about building anticipation rather than grand melodic change. It is, precisely, an exercise in harmonic wave long form when all the frequencies are allowed to meld into another. The coolest trick in Hanson’s repertoire, however, is how he seamlessly transitions into an electronically processed section of the tune. It sounds as though he primarily morphs them in his laptop and then allows the patterns to enjoy a sort of reincarnation as they play out backwards. Eventually the track is frittered down to near-silence like a dying prairie storm. This is where Hanson makes a huge leap from the Tiersen comparison and arrives at a sound that is a veridical descendent of Oval and their accidental birthing of glitch years before we had the term for it.
The oddest track on the album, “The Hour Angle (The Sun, It Rises Everywhere)”, plays out like an Audubon Society educational slam poem. I know this might be because I’m American, but I swear the woman reciting the poem has to be Rebecca Hall (much the way I was convinced that Tilda Swinton, on a Max Richter album, was actually Emma Thompson). And when I say odd, I mean, I love it, but it actually kind of creeps me out the way it sounds like 70’s educational material set to music used to.
“A Million Voices For Nature” is my absolute favorite on Low Fantasy. The slow, easy melody, coupled with the loop-like nature of Hanson’s playing styles of all the instruments is so perfectly meditative. It works a skittered thread of somber hope in my mind while I calmly watch the wave patterns and windswept cat’s paws atop the water of a nearby shipping canal on a sunny afternoon. For comparison’s sake, a case could be made that Hanson here nods to Jan Jelinek in the layered construction of his melody. The true victory here is achieving a piece of experimental ambient music that is thoroughly engaging while also allowing the listener to simply fade out. (Gabriel Bogart)