Phil Mouldycliff - Written On Water (CD ICR)
Start at the end. The omni-present drone that so many -so very many- like to dabble with is represented here by the extended, undulating, 'Spirit of Place.' Got that out of your system? Good. Now onto more interesting things.
Phil's worked with field recordings for a good many years now, processing them and using them within various mediums and for varying situations. This particular cd represents a collection of sounds designed for an exhibition. His collaborations with the ICR gang have brought his work more attention but I wonder if it fits in a little too comfortably? Surprisingly this is his first solo album and ought to have given him free reign but instead it's much as expected - heavily processed sounds that fear to break the surface. But then, that's the nature of sound in galleries.
It begins promisingly enough with twinkles sparkles over the top of damn tonal backing. As the album progresses it's suddenly apparent that a greater album is lurking in here somewhere. if only he'd not been afraid of silence. It's the little sounds that make this album. The autoharp, the voices, the field recordings. If they'd been unchained from the backing it may have resulted in a finer album. He should have the courage of his convictions and explore further the use of space. Ambience can go hang.
But what is very promising is 'A Speculative Atlas (for David Mitchell)', part of a track written for the imaginary sextet in David Mitchell's novel 'Cloud Atlas.' It sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. Initially it appears random but it's not at all. There's a sense of structure and calculation. A terrific piece. He replicates traditional instruments -piano, woodwind- with software by the sounds of things, which is a shame as it deserves a proper recording using real instruments. I do hope this track represents an interest by Phil in pushing forward with this form of neo-classical composition. Maybe incorporate his extensive work with field recordings with this sort of composition? Fingers crossed.
The cover and cd artwork is by Phil. Its vibrancy and sheer physicality of brushstroke is reminiscent of a close-up on a late period De Kooning. No bad thing at all. HM