Lawrence English: A Colour For Autumn

Lawrence English: It's Up To Us To Live
Sirr Records

In keeping with its title, A Colour For Autumn—the second in a seasons-themed series that follows the Baskaru release For Varying Degrees of Winter—is, yes, autumnal in tone and spirit. It's also my favourite collection to date by Australian sound artist Lawrence English, as it satisfies on multiple levels. Recorded in Brazil, Marseilles, Tasmania, Japan, and Brisbane and sourced from a mixture of instruments, field recordings, and electronics, A Colour For Autumn features seven “auditory portraits” that range from tranquil ambient meditations (“The Prelude To”) to settings of brooding portent (“Galaxies of Dust”) and vaporous synthesis (“... And Clouds For Company”). An ethereal choir of voices (courtesy of Dean Roberts) augments the dense thrum of “Droplet,” part of which includes windswept field recordings gathered in Notre-Dame De La Garde in Marseilles. The peaceful “Watching It Unfold,” by comparison, strips the sound down to incrementally intensifying ambient colourations and an anchoring piano motif that repeats throughout. With Christian Fennesz aboard to add his own subtle electronics shadings, the level of textural detail naturally increases in “The Surface of Everything.” Here and elsewhere, English builds up luxuriant masses within which multiple sounds congeal into lulling wholes. Wistfulness pervades much of the material, as English distills into aural form the transitory nature of seasonal change, and specifically the melancholy that attends the annual shift from summer to fall. At the same time, contrasting impressions of autumn associated with the different recording locations emerge in the subtle contrasts of mood that differentiate one piece from another. The thirty-seven-minute running time sounds short but in fact feels just right for this kind of recording.

Though it holds up credibly as a companion release, It's Up To Us To Live, which English actually began working on in 2004, sounds slightly more abrasive and industrial in timbre when heard alongside the 12k release. Enhanced by a striking cover photograph by Australian photographer Marian Drew (Tasmanian Swamp Hen with Apples), It's Up To Us To Live opts for fifty-two minutes of steely, densely-packed micro-drones that eschew the warmth and placidity of the 12k release for a cooler and more reverberant style that makes the material feel insular and claustrophobic. Don't get the wrong idea: the release isn't unpleasant or off-putting, just icier than A Colour For Autumn. English once again works almost entirely alone—Benjamin Thompson adds guitar to two of the seven pieces—in assembling the material from guitar, electronics, field recordings, and other less identifiable sources. The set alternates between softly shuddering drones of electrical and guitar-shaded design (“Thelovehasnoface”), stuttering convulsions of churning industrial noise (“Somewhere Inside Me Is You”), and a brief plunge into the center of a combustible vortex (“Shed”). At disc's end, the sixteen-minute “The Slow Weave” unfurls slowly but eventually swells into a rippling mass of hot-wired electronics before decompressing for a more tranquil coda. Interestingly, the Sirr release could easily have been issued under the For Varying Degrees of Winter title too, giving how perfectly it matches the material's character.

May 2009