There is an immersive, musical element to every garden, even if your visit is momentary. After all, they too, are reliant on a sense of composition, of making an expression emerge from a re-ordering of natural components. Everything in them holds a specific relation to the whole, but more importantly, everything works towards constructing a certain space – for pleasure, for meditation, conversation, solitude, or perhaps even to represent a vision of the world. Such spaces are always visually layered, sometimes through terraforming, others through the erection of ‘walls’ that guide visitors’ paths; there’s a depth that plays with the micro and macrocosmic as we can sit down and analyze the textures of certain leaves as much as we can stand back and make out the patterns the colors of flowers make when brushed by the wind. In a first instance, it is all uniformly coherent, but if enough attention is paid, there is usually a distinct kind of plant meticulously placed alongside another, different kind, so that, maybe, the round leaves of the first combine with the jagged, pointed leaves of the second to create a certain harmony in miniature. In the same way, Nick Storring‘s Gardens constantly pull the listener in and out of focus: the five pieces in the album constitute, fundamentally, a place.
It is a place given shape through few electronic procedures, relying mostly on acoustic and electromechanical instruments (45 of them, give or take!), activating their potential to produce numerous interrelations at many levels in both horizontal and vertical terms. Like the paths of walled gardens, the pieces have definite directions that often culminate in open, spatial revelations in droning harmony. However, said directions do not have a pragmatism to them; they have no function beyond an exercise in form, an appeal to ‘pure’ aesthetics that does not carry the weight of the world on its shoulders, preferring a free sensory play that ebbs and flows with our very listening. Therefore, the clearness of melody is primarily a microscopic element of these gardens, something to be found after meditation, after embracing the whole and letting it blow our senses every which way; a small, atomic reflection that allows us to induce, like the relation between colors or the forms of leaves, what is ‘universal’ about the garden, how its order comes to be.
In many ways this resembles the work of dronesters that have developed very creative, very new interpretations of chamber music, such as Sean McCann. Gardens reminds me a lot of McCann’s latest works, but the key difference here is that while McCann emphasizes form through collage and montage – in other words, a painterly attitude towards music – Storring does so through an architectural conception that sees music not as canvas (or as object) but as place, as a space to be arranged in various manners via the control of the ‘natural’ relations between instruments. Just like a garden cannot be found by chance in nature, this music cannot have any other form but that of an album: both are reproductions of mindsets and playful classicality, fully composed and thus impossible to conceive outside of their current shape. This is not to say that this is music that cannot be played live, but that the commonplace saying that anything is better when played by a flesh and blood musician in front of an audience might not even apply here. In the end, it’ll be a different experience, and one might not be better than the other, just like a clearing in a forest is not inherently better than a garden (unless, of course, you’re a hopeless romantic, and that’s fine).
In any case, Storring has created something special here, and he can be happily included in the list of young, emergent composers that give all “back in my day…” naysayers pause for thought. Whenever you’ve got time to get lost in your mind for a good while, put some headphones on, close your eyes, and enter these Gardens. (David Murrieta)