Pawn: Glimmer of Sunlight
While all three of this latest trio of Dynamophone releases are different from one another, they share something with past releases in the label's catalogue: a luscious production design quality and keen sensitivity to sonic micro-detail. There's also ample evidence of cross-pollination, as each of the three artists contributes to the others' releases, too.
Geskia!, a Japanese-based sound colourist who's largely issued material on flau, now finds himself comfortably ensconced at Dynamophone. Some of Geskia!'s past work was rooted in downtempo hip-hop and that's once again the case here. Though the opening piece, “Interim,” and the first half of the second, “Abuttal,” find him trafficking in a prototypical Dynamophone style that emphasizes radiant atmospheric scene-painting, the latter track's second half introduces the funkier, hip-hop-flavoured style with which Geskia!'s been associated. It's a strategy he returns to on Muon (in the trip-hop of “Melamine” and deep head-nod of “Lachrymose,” for instance) in such a way that the album forms a bridge between his beat-driven leanings and the kind of sonic splendour for which Dynamophone is renowned. In many tracks, multiple keyboards, synthetic and otherwise, tinkle amidst crackling textures and nature-based field recordings (chirping birds, dribbling water) while bass-powered beats animate the material with low-end oomph. If there's one thing that differentiates Geskia! from other producers of similar genre ilk, it's the degree of density he brings to his arrangements. To cite one case of many, “Orion” unfolds in a haze of harpsichord, electric piano, ambient textures, and electronic breakbeats that's so thick it's veritably opaque. Active in music production since 2001, Geskia! is clearly up to the challenge of creating detailed sound design, as the multi-textured settings on this hour-long collection make clear.
Hideki Umezawa, who's issued a number of Pawn CDs and EPs on The Land Of, Symbolic Interaction, Progressive Form, and Drifting Falling since 2009, follows up his earlier Dynamophone release Glass + Breath with Glimmer of Sunlight, a collaborative project that sees six Pawn originals paired with reworks of same by Solo Andata, Geskia!, Moshimoss, Josh Varnedore, Konntinent, and The Lullaby League. Umezawa's music is as detail-intensive as Geskia!'s, the major difference being Pawn fashions pastoral electroacoustic meditations rather than ambient-hip-hop hybrids. The delicate sparkle of electronics, piano, strings, found sounds, glass harp, and soft female vocals flutter throughout Umezawa's soothing settings, such that pieces like “Sleepy Films in Your Head,” “Sketch of a Wooden Hand Orge,” and “I Colored the Arctic White” become inviting oases of calm within a too-fast world. On the remix tip, The Lullaby League adds its customary splendour to “Glimmer of Sunlight,” which intermittently combusts in spectacular bursts of radiance; Josh Varnedore enhances “We are Alone Until the End of the World” with trademark symphonic sweetening; Solo Andata transforms “A Thousand Cups of Coffee and Despair” into a deep industrial-drone meditation; and Konntinent recasts “I Colored the Arctic White” as an appropriately glacial setting of pronouncedly synthetic design.As much as there is to recommend Muon and Glimmer of Sunlight, the brightest jewel in this particular crown is Sun Chapter by Josh Varnedore, who's in Amman-Josh alongside Amman Abbasi. The forty-seven-minute release is Varnedore's full-length debut and follow-up to his 2011 186,000 Endings per Second EP. Many guests contribute to the project without hijacking Varnedore's luscious sound into alien climes. He first brings Umezawa aboard for the jointly penned “Earth,” which could just as easily pass for a Pawn track as a Varnedore one. That being said, it's also easy to find oneself drawn into its texturally rich soundworld, especially when it first recedes into near-nothingness before one final slow breath is taken. A reprise of “186,000 Endings per Second” finds Varnedore joined by vocalist Rebecca Coseboom and Hammock, with the collective result an emotive, slow-building exercise in Sigur Rós-styled dramatics replete with ethereal vocals, handclaps, sleigh bells, and reverb-heavy guitars. That Sigur Rós vibe re-emerges during “Vertebrae,” when stirring piano chords and slow-burning guitars lend the piece (which features a guest turn by Amman Abbasi) a grandiose air. Arguably the album's loveliest setting is “Sunhoney,” which gradually swells into the set's most entrancing example of celestial scene-painting, while “Seachild” finds Varnedore fashioning a pastoral setting of electroacoustic splendour in a way that could make Clem Leek or offthesky envious. Admittedly, the sound of a skittering beat pattern in “Novaculite Tree Carvers” is a tad jarring, arriving as it does within such a beats-free context, but it also shows Varnedore's aware of the need to change things up occasionally. That, among other things, helps make Sun Chapter stand out as a preternaturally accomplished debut album.