Dale Berning: The Horse and Camel Stories

Part Timer: Blue

Two more wonderful releases from Japan-based Flau, specifically the second album by Part Timer (following its first issued in 2006 on Moteer) and a lovely collection of soundtrack vignettes by Dale Berning.

Blue collects fourteen pastoral “laptop folk” settings by Part Timer (Melbourne-based John McCaffrey) into a splendid and evocative package. The former Clickits member merges his own acoustic guitar, field recordings, and clicking beats with the keening strings of the Australian quartet Fourplay and the vocal talents of Nicola Hodgkinson. Opener “Theme From Part Timer” sets the scene with acoustic guitar augmented by string stirrings and outdoor field recordings (children playing, birds, water), and the thirteen treatments that follow perpetuate its tranquil ambiance. “Hide All You Like” is like an early morning, back porch country picking session emanating from some fairy tale fantasia, and is further boosted by added sweetening from Hodgkinson whose delicate voice also deepens the dreaminess of “Somewhere That You Feel.” Elsewhere, “Unknown” is distinguished by shimmering harp lattices, “Closing the Opera House” electronically splinters a heavenly flow of angelic voices into shards, and two versions of “Four Timer” mix creaky old pianos, sour string tones, and voice fragments into bold collages. Superb stuff.

Excellent also is Dale Berning's The Horse and Camel Stories, an hour-long collection of nineteen short pieces, the first fourteen of which were originally composed for Hiraki Sawa's film Going Places Titting Down. The film is about make-believe journeys to far-away places (a child riding a blue wooden wooden horse transports himself without ever leaving his room) and Berning's entrancing electroacoustic lullabies ably complement that dream-like theme. A sense of child-like innocence and wonder permeates the softly stuttering settings that Berning assembled from antique music boxes, chimes, and field recordings made at the country house and garden where Sawa filmed (water running in the bathroom, rain water dripping on stones, wind chimes, clocks, birds). Of the other five pieces, four are also associated with the work of Hiraki Sawa while “Flock” was composed for a film by Stephanie Caw. Meditative, meandering vignettes like “Another One” and “Fireworks” exude a calming quietude that's hard to resist while “Keyhole” and “Caravanséail” call to mind the mechanical charms of Colleen et les boîtes à musique. The Horse and Camel Stories is the kind of 12k-styled luminescence that should strongly appeal to fans of Sawako and Colleen.

January 2008