Autistici: Temporal Enhancement

It's telling that the instrument contributions by the sole guest on Temporal Enhancement are clearly identified, yet those by the artist responsible for the recording are only vaguely referenced. More to the point, Jonathan Lees is credited with acoustic guitar and found sounds on four of the six tracks; David Newman (aka Autistici) is credited with having written and performed the album's material. It's not so much, I'm guessing, that he isn't amenable to listing the various instruments used to bring the album to its final form but more that the Sheffield-based composer wants the listener to broach the recording on purely sonic terms and not be distracted by production-related issues.

This so-called “sonic exploration of the perception of time” implicitly explores the ways by which listeners shape sequential sounds into organized, coherent wholes and use memory to retain the residue of previously heard sounds and combine it with the material subsequent to it. Augustine famously wrestled with such time-centric issues centuries ago in his Confessions, a theme that Newman now takes up in a different way. For him, the harmony or disharmony of one moment is determined in part by its relationship to the sounds that appear before and after it.

In the service of this exploration, Newman draws upon a number of different styles, among them modern classical, drone, and ambient, and blends samples, instrument sounds, field recordings, and found sounds into arresting compositions of unusual design. It is possible to extricate an identifiable instrument sound from the whole, but doing so risks missing the point: these settings are best experienced as mutating organisms, as sound experiments extending through time. For forty-six minutes, noises of varying kinds—creaks, clicks, whooshes, et al.—intermingle with synthetic washes and broken rhythms in constructions that exude more dimensionality than a term like multi-layered can convey.

“Opened Up Too Quickly” assumes a rather industrial character when molten shards emerge within the flickering mass; convulsions of a determinedly alien type dominate when the industrial episode recedes. Newman imposes shape on “Thinking Before Feeling” by grounding it with a regulated rhythm though not so much that the piece loses its abstract character in the process. At album's end, he applies ear-catching echo effects to the otherwise pastoral-styled meditation “Slowing Down Before You Stop.” If there's a go-to track here, it's “Habituation of the Heart” for the way Newman shapes a sprawl of guitar treatments, hazy drones, crackles, and placid atmospheres into a slow-moving, seventeen-minute design unlike anything you've heard before. It would be tempting to label such material psychedelic yet doing so risks imposing on it associations that aren't appropriate to the material at hand.

January 2016