Sarah Davachi ~ Let Night Come On Bells End The Day

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Confession time: I held off reviewing this for a long time because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around this album. What I could hear was fascinating music but it seemed to be buried under layers of distortion – not the good kind either but the ugly, always in the red, bleeding all over the place sort. If you can’t say anything nice about loads of unappealing distortion, as the saying almost goes, don’t say anything at all. Then I happened across Let Night Come On Bells End The Day on a streaming service and it sounded completely different. The contrast was remarkable, like a century of industrial grime being cleaned off a building, it was the same work but cleaner, fresher, much more attractive. It’s possible that I was unlucky with technology, but I think it’s more likely I had an unmastered promo – and there is a huge difference in the sound of the two versions.

Sarah Davachi has composed an album of pieces that shift from quiet to loud; the opening track “Garlands” is a microcosm of the approach, starting with several seconds of silence and then ramping up the volume over the next three or so minutes to an immense block of sound. This is why the original version I heard was problematic; this evolving sound was distracted by hums and billows of distortion, whereas in the released version it is much cleaner and more impactful. It’s music to be played loud so this really matters. Most of the pieces here hover around levels that could easily go over the limits but thankfully don’t.

There are three mostly drone pieces on Let Night Come On, sandwiching two other works which have a little more variety of instrumentation to them, and much of the heavy-lifting is done by keyboard-based drones, credited as Mellotron, electric organ and several synths on the sleevenotes. However, on “Buhrstone” the repeated piano phrase continues under everything while higher pitched tones climb their way upwards, panning around the ears. “Mordents” is also built around a simple musical phrase to start with, and sounds almost baroque; the organ that gradually takes over could at first be from a much earlier work (like Bach – that early) before adopting a holding pattern that would, I think, terrify fans of Vivaldi, then and now.

The drone pieces virtually double in length the further along the album they appear, so the album closes with the staggering “Hours In The Evening” which has such a density of sound, you could walk around in it. Or maybe float. Starting off quietly, as is the expected approach, there is a slow, slow build so that the point when it reaches maximum volume is almost unnoticed; although, yes, you will notice it. This track title, as with the LP itself, suggests that it’s designed for late night listening – however noticeable side effects may include waking up the listener such is the power of the work. At a low volume it may lead to drowsiness but you’d be missing out. Play it loud, leave the windows open, watch the moon rise. Wonderful. (Jeremy Bye)

Available here

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