Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Hypnagogue - Vacuum Wool.

Album: Vacuum Wool
Artist: Hypnagogue
Label: Nature Noise Wall
Catalogue no: NNW225

     1.      Hint
     2.      Dust
     3.      Seasong

I can’t say with any certainty what I was expecting to hear, but it wasn’t what’s contained on this three-track release from Italy’s Nature Noise Wall label. For those of you who, like me, were beguiled into thinking that the ‘noise wall’ part of the label name signified abrasive and pummelling barrages of harsh noise, then be advised that it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, what we’re treated to are lush, densely-layered, disembodied and displaced soundscapes, culled from field recordings, voices, and electronics, sonic paintings that caress the ear and create vistas of non-Euclidean panoramas, a dimension where perhaps all pluralities cease to exist as separate states and are instead merged into one. Yet, in spite of that seeming unfamiliarity it weaves together strands and elements of the utterly recognisable with the strange, in the process removing them from any sense of something encountered in real life. And that’s why these missives from that(those) other reality(ies) is(are) so mesmerising.

‘Hint’ begins with a ringing sustained chime, one that’s stretched beyond the material limits of natural time, suggestive of an alternate time-stream, anchored to this world on occasion through the use of voices, a closing door, and static blips that cascade like sparks from a fire. That incessant ringing, rather than being annoying, transforms this into the Other, placing it beyond the merely human and pushing it into an optical spectrum far outside that which we can normally perceive. Colours and textures unfold, hypnotic in their variety and awe-inspiring in their natural profligacy, shifting our senses and perspectives to reveal nuances that we never knew could possibly exist, and yet exist they do, even in our mundane world. Yet, those familiar interjections only serve to highlight our connections to the possibilities of parallel worlds existing just an inch away to our side in time.

The next serving is ‘Dust’, and this one is piled high with deliciously subtle layers of distant sound overlain with soft grainy static. Bell-like notes drift up like specks of dust caught in a ray of sunlight, taking flight toward the untouchable blue above, carried on a barely perceptible carpet of resonant drone. I am inclined to feel that its origins lie not within the sphere of the mundane, but perhaps from somewhere between the supranormal and the multidimensional. Indistinct voices only add to the occult aspects and the otherworldly atmosphere flowing from this. I genuinely had shivers whilst listening to this.

Finally, ‘Seasong’ invites us to stand on a lonely beach somewhere, buffeted by winds barrelling off the vast expanse of water in front of us, its gentle waves alternately kissing our toes and then shyly running away again. Weaving around and through those winds, again as if heard from a fog-obscured distance, is a faint melody, a siren song perhaps attempting to lure us into the frigid embrace of the sea. The song is never-ending, rolling steadily onwards like the waves washing up on the shoreline. As I was listening, I felt that the sea is perhaps not merely luring us away from the land but also inviting us to return to its embrace, to the place where all life started. It’s a clarion call to perhaps start again, to renew our contract with Mother Earth, and to experience the wholeness of nature.

Reading a paragraph-long review of this posted on Bandcamp, the writer averred that this release felt dark, enclosing, and perhaps claustrophobic. Although I can feel where he’s coming from, my experience of this was completely the opposite. These pieces of music, although dense and crowded, talk of vast open spaces, of contact with nature beyond and above what we would normally encounter – as if saying that our experiences of the world are limited, and that there’s a lot more to engage with if only we open ourselves to the signs and the signals. In some small way, Vacuum Wool reminded me of the work of The Caretaker – perhaps mostly on a superficial level, especially in its stylistic construction, but there’s also a lot about persistence of ancestral memories buried deep within each of these pieces, and also perhaps about our loss of connections with the real world. If I am being honest, this music moved me in a way I hadn’t expected and certainly hadn’t anticipated – in which case, I would venture that there’s a deeper message to be heard here, about re-establishing and reclaiming our place within the environment surrounding us.

Available as a digital album + streaming from here:

Psymon Marshall 2020. 

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