Amsterdam’s Shimmering Moods leaves nothing to chance, continuing the rollout of new imprint Slow Tone Collages with what is now its fourth bundle of releases. We especially love the new logo, a stylized snail that implies the speed of the music.
Andrew Sherwell has an almost unfair advantage over Knower and Trent Hawkins, whose works were released the same day. After seeing the cover image, one just has to know what the music sounds like. As befits the label, it’s a collage. Another even spookier card image can be found inside.
The tone is incredibly open to interpretation. The nearly 40-minute opener is the entry point, culled from recordings of bells and ambient sound from churches in the South Downs. Listeners enraptured by nula.cc’s “Bells,” Andreas Usenbenz’ Bells Breath and Cities & Memory’s collection The Chimes will especially appreciate this piece, which is more than one might think at first glance. Perhaps the most succinct summary is “Come for the bells, stay for the ambience.” The track begins with straight-up tolling, but the bells travel in and out of the sonic field at different pitches and intervals. One might count the chimes, save for the fact that they are not used as timekeepers. Occasionally they overlap, like the churches in one’s given geography, But strange things happen when their tones are elongated or disappear.
These liminal, in-between spaces occupy the field of dark ambience, in this event serving as the amplified corners and silences of churches which may be filled with ghosts, echoes and trapped prayers. What is perceived as absence turns into a wind, conjuring comparison to Elijah. If the bells are the peak of the sonic and spiritual experience, the sounds of the deserted cathedrals are its valley. When heard together, they symbolize the heights and depths of spirituality, no subject too difficult to utter, no hope too impossible to dream.
It’s almost too much to expect to be enraptured by the 25-minute “Kangling,” but this piece too works its spell. As the samples were taken at an Embassy of Free Tibet fundraiser in the 80s, the work possess a melancholic resonance. The track begins with a sine wave drone, but a rattling of bells breaks through the darkness, followed by a series of crashes like quashed freedom. Louder, darker tones, like slow battle cries, make the piece more melodic, imitating the excruciating rate of progress in Tibet. And yet, this is also the pace of prayer: sometimes steady, sometimes sporadic, an accumulation over time as one waits for a benevolent God to intervene. The timbre of monks’ chants are often akin to that of drones. A brass blast may be a call to worship or to arms.
In subsequent pieces, Sherwell highlights the passive and active faces of religion. While listening, one may seek the angelic presence in the peal of metal against metal, the cries of humanity, or the soft tissue between the sounds. (Richard Allen)