Nick Storring‘s Endless Conjecture comes in quite fast after his last album, Gardens, released with only a few months of separation from each other. In a way, this closeness becomes reflected not solely in the process through which the music was made (a careful, painstaking production involving about 40 instruments) but also in the kind of sound relations played out in said process, appearing often as musical construction. In this case, it is also related to the idea of the natural in some way, although it seems to have been explored on a note in which the clarity of gardens makes way for a wilder, darker type of sound. Conjecture does not so much build a place as erases it, using the very same techniques. With all the calmness in the world, rationality shifts gears from architectural classicality to something much less elaborate but no less complex, something that beautifully un-draws the sense of place into a subjectivity full of silences and unidentified bits of sound from equally strange instruments.
A compilation of tracks from 2013-2014, the album does not come off as a mere collection, and retains a sense of wholeness that is possibly due to the tight, calculating nature of the music contained within. In contrast to Gardens, it is a much more percussive endeavor, favoring a slow, sparse development that distances itself from the rationalizing echo of chamber music. Conjecture flows with a parallel modern intent instead, an intensity that breaks the boundaries of what could be easily mistaken for a 1960s electronic piece, except it does not find its answers in the beat of new technology. On the contrary, it prefers to distance itself from that mindset by adopting purely acoustic or, at most, electromechanical instruments, producing sounds you’ll find it difficult to hear elsewhere. Surrounded by ‘nature’, a single musician can achieve something similar, if altogether different if close attention is paid, to the stirring lab-made soundtracks of the space age.
The track names evoke such a natural world: “Ungulates”, meaning animals with hooves, beckons with atonal calls and responses underlined by a steady stream of slow, precise percussions. “Terminal Burrowing” might refer to the neuronal protocol activated by the brain when suffering from hypothermia, in which “a primitive and burrowing-like behavior of protection” is produced, a primal reaction made of short bursts of brass and distant droning, seemingly repetitive and stuttering like muscular spasms protecting the body from low temperatures. Born from a chemical reaction, it pushes through consciousness with a most rational demand: preserve the self! The technology, as it were, is as ancient as our evolution. “Dewclaws”, which are the often vestigial claws that some animals have and which often lack any clear, obvious purpose, combines the rapid bursts of winds with the percussions, articulating tense melodies that growl and seem about to explode, mixed with animal calls that grant the track a noisy quality that is not present, or at least not as noticeable, in the others. Finally “They Carry Light” is the musical accompaniment to a short film by Mikel Guillen called “The Natural State”, based on U.G. Krishnamurti’s writings, which very generally deal with a return to a state in which thought takes a place beside the body, instead of over and above it. It is a piece that fits perfectly here both in theme and sound, and which, in many ways, sounds like a culmination of the place that has been slowly un-built over the course of the album. It is all distance, silence, and a sort of tense tranquility, like the mirror image of Gardens, projecting a nature that is yet untamed.
If you liked Gardens, I highly suggest you get this album as well, simply because they work wonderfully as a double album. Even if you can’t find the relationship, it’s still quality music from a very interesting contemporary composer, and that alone should suffice to, at least, give it a listen or two. (David Murrieta)