For those of us high up in the northern hemisphere, the nights are drawing in and the temperature has begun falling towards its winter low. We’re more than usually aware of the cold to come: the heat that we’ve taken for granted has become precious, a resource to be conserved. We hope that no-one freezes to death this winter; we fear that they will.
Cold manifests itself most visually in water. As the temperatures sink, we begin to see frost. Soon, if we’re far enough north, the snow will begin to fall. What will begin as gentle flakes will transform into ice: solid but slippery, unpredictable and dangeous. We’ll live with this danger, longing for the spring melt.
This annual transformation is a rich source of inspiration for musicians, including Belgian composer and sound-artist Adriaan Swerts, whose debut album One appears on piano and coffee records. For Swerts, who in the last years has experienced both a bereavement and a life-altering accident that caused a disability, this metamorphosis symbolises all that is beautiful and fragile about life. One is simultaneously an expression of grief at what is and will be lost, and a love song to the world and its capacity for renewal.
The album moves at the gentle pace of natural state change, employing the familiar tones of the piano, harmonium and strings, coupled with field recordings and—most intriguingly—synth instruments built from the field recordings themselves: Icelandic glaciers, geysers, Scottish lochs, waterfalls, and oceans are all here, transformed until they can sing. Adding another layer of natural interaction, Swerts filmed the sound vibrations caused by his music in water, unveiling beautiful and unique geometric patterns for each composition. The resulting Gesamtwerk is a timely meditation on the fragility of our place in the natural world and a beautiful aural accompaniment to the slow decline towards the darkest time of the year. (Garreth Brooke)