Mutable is an album with multiple selling points, many apparent before the drop of the needle. Start with the gorgeous cover art, reminiscent of tree trunks and vinyl. Add Adrianna Snochowska’s oil paintings, one for each of the album tracks. The icing on the cake: haikus and prose inspired by the music, completing the synesthetic experience.
We’re already drenched in beauty, predisposed to like these tracks; and like them we do. The album is filled with field recordings from Poland, inspired by a cross-country trip. The production creates a new ripple of inspiration. Leaving nothing to chance, the artist calls on Rafael Anton Irisarri for the mastering and Arovane for a remix. The music becomes a living object. The synthesizers wrap around the field recordings like tree trunks growing over embedded objects. Everything is mutable.
Ebauche (Berlin’s Alex Leonard) has been recording since the turn of the century, but it’s safe to say that everything he’s done has been building up to this. After an early flurry of activity, he’s become a patient composer, releasing an album over every few years. Over time, the artist’s sound has evolved. Some of his earlier releases were more ambient in nature, others more aggressive. On Beatings for 9am people (2004), aggression was sandwiched between ambient slivers. The rhythmic, eight-movement Incomplete Watch Movement (2005) sounds as if it could have been recorded today. But in 2015, after a long period of inactivity, Leonard seemed to find his niche. Adrift was his first vinyl project, his first to feature field recordings as a prominent element, and his first pairing with Snochowska. While it’s easy to find threads connecting the two recordings, the differences between that album and the current one are palpable. The new set is honed, succinct, precise. The artist even looks different: brawnier, more confident. The person has proven himself to be as mutable as his music.
Mutable is about change, but it’s also about impression, especially the manner in which an object may stay the same while our view may change. The principle is true of art, of politics, of love. We receive an impression of a piece of music, but the impression may change based on what we learn about the artist; the number of times we listen; the way we listen; and the circumstances around our lives. In terms of these tracks, we see a piece of art inspired by each track; we read a poem and a snippet of prose; we gain or lose appreciation; we connect an image to the music, or reject it.
“Chwiać” means waver, shake, vacillate, wobble. The suggested season: autumn. The offered image: undergrowth. The color scheme: brown, grey, red, black. These are the artist’s impressions. To this reviewer, the song is a slow train bisecting wheat, making no local stops; a paperback book, creased down the spine, resting on the lap. The slowing beeps of the final minute represent the arrival at the station. Ebauche has done everything possible to define this track, and should own the right to such definition; and yet, it slips from his hands once the music reaches the public realm. Nothing is fixed. When Arovane provides a remix later in the album, it’s as if to underline this point: Arovane hears tempo and tension and brings them to the forefront, swapping the reduction of speed for a fade.
“Zmiemmy” ~ variable, alternating, changeable. The image: a wave. The color: blue. In this, I agree. The music suggests the silence of long swells, a body adrift. But if musician, artist and listener agree, are we right? There’s no way to corner the market on impression. We are but three. The drone of this track fades into the drone of “Powolny,” which the artist describes perfectly ~ slow, gradual, languid, lingering. We can sense the changes occurring within us as we listen to the music. But what changes? We become intrigued or bored. We are swallowed by the music or spit it out. We become emotionally involved or distant. Perhaps the next time a different impression, a different reaction.
By the end, the artist has evolved, echoing the title of the final piece. But the listener has evolved as well, arriving at an opinion that will remain fixed until it is subtly altered or replaced. Our reactions continue the ripples of mutability, highlighting the raison d’être of the project. (Richard Allen)