Nick Gill: Grey Season
Effra Press

A man of many talents, UK-based Nick Gill is a musician, playwright, letterpress printer, and type founder. He plays guitar in the instrumental septet The Monroe Transfer, plays saw, banjo, ukulele and guitar in Fireworks Night, and composes music for theatre, film, and live performance. He's written multiple plays, and with his wife runs Effra Press, which releases letterpress books and music. Many of Gill's talents come together in Grey Season: a product of Effra Press, the vinyl disc arrives in a digitally- and letterpress-printed sleeve (in an edition of 216 numbered copies), and some of the material originated as parts of scores for theatre and live performance that Gill subsequently reworked for the eight-track release.

What helps set Grey Season apart from others in the neo-classical ambient soundscaping field is the contrasting sounds Gill threads into its tracks—the melodramatic parlour piano tinkling through “Grey 1,” the flute-like mellotron tones in “Grey 4: Naurzus,” and the bluesy harmonica in “Grey 7: Carnivale,” to mention three examples. The album's memorable also for painting outside the genre lines, so to speak, with Gill unafraid to explore related styles. The note on the press release indicating that the album should interest fans of Max Richter, Deaf Center, William Basinski, Brian Eno, Thomas Koner, and Taylor Deupree is a telling one: while the artists cited don't inhabit separate universes, the music they individually create is nevertheless sufficiently distinct—something one might also say about the eight atmospheric settings on Gill's release.

“Grey 1” inaugurates the album arrestingly when Gill smears the aforementioned piano part with industrial grime in such a way as to suggest erosion and decay, like music produced decades ago and only recently exhumed from some dustbin. By comparison, “Grey 2” presents a muffled, electronic drone-styled character, while “Grey 3: Arno” plunges the listener into decrepit Deaf Center territory, wherein surface rustlings and creeping noises abound. “Grey 4: Naurzus” brings about a dramatic shift in displacing the material away from dark ambient and in the direction of both prog and electronica due to the presence of mellotron and beat programming, respectively.

On side two, “Grey 5” again changes the dial, this time shifting the focus to smoldering dronescaping, as do “Grey 7: Carnivale,” which spreads harmonica wheeze across a desert of electric guitar shadings, and “Grey 8: Nocturne,” which closes the album with a ponderous classical setting for piano and cello, the latter played by Nicole Robson. It's encouraging to discover that Grey Season isn't a one-off but instead the first in a projected series of similarly styled albums by Gill. Apparently, the next in the series, Salt Hell, which takes its inspiration from the anonymous Old English poem The Seafarer, is presently in the works. Let's hope it matches Grey Season in quality.

November 2014