Antonymes: The Licence To Interpret Dreams
Hidden Shoal

The latest opus from North Wales-based Ian Hazeldine under the Antonymes moniker, The Licence To Interpret Dreams is a beautiful collection regardless of whether one classifies it as electronic chamber music or ambient neo-classical. A marvel of conception and form, the album's twelve pieces are numbered on the back cover as dreams (“Dream I,” “Dream II,” etc.), which proves to be a fitting strategy for an album that unfurls like a graceful plume of smoke captured in slow-motion. It's music that never feels as if it's groaning under the weight of a too-cluttered arrangement; instead, Hazeldine opts for restraint and elegance in the selection and distribution of the sounds making up the pieces. The core of his music is the piano, from which other sounds extend and around which other materials, some of them computer-manipulated, constellate. Hazeldine's no technical virtuoso on the instrument but his sparse style is a perfect fit for his music, and ultimately that's what matters. It's primarily a solo affair, though key contributions do come on a select number of pieces from violinist Christopher Berg, cellist James Banbury, and speaker Jan Van Den Broeke.

The Licence To Interpret Dreams is an album that features one stirring moment after another, with seemingly every piece distinguished by an ear-catching moment or two. A fitting overture, “A Fragile Acceptance” unfolds at a beautifully measured pace, with a sparse array of piano notes tentatively sketching in details until the canvas is gradually filled in with more colour when Banbury's bowed cello declares itself. Crashing waves form a background accompaniment to the graceful lilt of the piano and accompanying orchestral elements during “The Siren, Hopelessly Lost,” while the mournful melodic path of the church organ in “The Gospel Pass” calls to mind the tone of one of Arvo Part's most affecting recordings, Arbos. Shuddering strings and muted horns not only lend “Womb of the Great Mother” a pronounced symphonic character that alternately evokes the musics of Richard Strauss and Sibelius but also suggest the expansive outdoors in the additional incorporation of nature sounds. Declamatory horn melodies also give “The Door Towards the Dream” a stately and epic character, an effect offset by music box tinkles and ethereal choir vocals that give the song's other sections a fairy tale-like quality. On “Doubt,” Van Den Broek dramatically intones Paul Morley's words using a hocketing technique whereby individual words and phrases are heard originating from each channel in turn, though the listener's attention is just as much, if not more, directed towards the emotive piano-and-strings arrangement that gradually swells alongside the voice. A lovely oboe-like figure floats across piano chords during the wistful waltz “A Light From the Heavens,” ostensibly paving the way for Banbury's cello to make one last memorable appearance on the album. Antonymes' album is one that would have natural appeal to listeners whose recent playlists have included work by Field Rotation, Harold Budd, Nils Frahm, and Dustin O'Halloran, to name a few who could be seen as kindred spirits to Hazeldine.

May 2011