It’s surely just a cosmic coincidence that the new album by Celia Hollander shares its name with the antagonists of the new series Loki – well, at least the Timekeepers are one part of the story. We’ll keep this review spoiler-free but suffice it to say, Loki is about time, whether it follows a linear path or shoots off in a multitude of different directions. So it is with Timekeeper, a fascinating work that interprets certain moments of the day into music, sometimes abstract compositions, other times structured, more rhythmic pieces.
Hollander has split her technique on Timekeeper into three categories, with each piece representing a temporal field, or wave, or rope. The latter is a concept I was not familiar with, although it is possible to discern its shape as distinct from the other two. For the sake of the album, ‘rope’ is described as a ‘singular linearity’, which I think can be applied to only the most ambient pieces here. Each track is named after a time of day, although it hasn’t been sequenced in chronological order. So the lively “4.36 PM” sits between the more chilled “3.34 AM” and “1.23 AM” – it makes sense for the ears but is an absolute nightmare for certain people who just want the times in the right order. I imagine Christopher Nolan being absolutely delighted with the idea, should he ever hear this album.
A Los Angeles based composer, who has previously released work as $3.33, Celia Hollander focuses on the digital manipulation of acoustic sounds and recordings for Timekeeper, producing a soundtrack for a day in the life of the city. The tracks for the early morning are fairly gentle, but with rain falling on “4.29 AM”, disrupting the quiet before the dawn (the rain returns on “9.48 PM”, it has been a dry and sunny day). The temporal wave mentioned above – part of the composing technique, with its ‘swelling momentums’ is most apparent on “9.02 AM”, which could represent the rumble of commuting traffic at a distance; it has a similar, restless mood to Steve Reich’s “Different Trains”.
Most of the ‘afternoon’ tracks (between “12.55 PM” and “6.58 PM”) occupy the middle third of the album and it is fun trying to work out what these tracks represent. Is the gentle sound of a digitised harp in “1.17 PM” indicative of the siesta that occurs in warmer climes, or is it the lolling of the office worker trying to shake off the post-lunch slump and try to rouse themselves into an afternoon of productivity? “11.01 PM” seems to capture those moments when one is trying to relax and unwind, yet the brain decides otherwise. Whatever your daily routine, you are bound to find a moment when a track here fits perfectly with your mood at that precise time.
Having said all that, let us try to avoid getting too distracted by the titles themselves. Timekeeper has a great concept, but the music would captivate even if Celia Hollander had titled the tracks 1 – 12 and left it for our imaginations to interpret meanings from scratch. But time remains a major component of her work – see also last year’s Recent Futures that approached time from all sorts of directions. By comparison, Hollander’s pieces on Timekeeper are more concise and precise, benefitting from a limited set of compositional strategies and forming her most approachable work to date.
The album is released digitally in July, but – in a state of affairs that the God of Mischief must be responsible for – the vinyl edition won’t be available for several months yet, possibly 2022. Get your orders in now, though. Timekeeper will be worth waiting for. (Jeremy Bye)