Darren Harper: Passages For the Listless and Tired

Philippe Lamy: Slowfast

The title of Darren Harper's Passages For the Listless and Tired suggests that the forty-four-minute CD (available in a limited edition of 100 copies) will be plaintive, and lending further support to the presumption is the note on the back cover that reads: “Improvised Autumnal Drifts for Ableton Live, Fender Telecaster, Shortwave Radio, and F.M. Buddha Machine.” That detail, of course, also clarifies the gear Harper used to produce the album's six settings, all of which hew to a basic title format—“First Passage,” “Second Passage,” and so on. In keeping with the ambient-experimental sound artist tradition, Harper, who calls the Rocky Mountains of Colorado home and has issued work on Flaming Pines, Rural Colours, Audio Gourmet, and other like-minded labels, processes his electroacoustic source materials until little remains of their originating character and in their place is an ultra-purified ambient-drone flow of time-stretching minimalism, the most representative example of which is the closing “Sixth Passage (Reprise).” Passages For the Listless and Tired might be thought of as transcriptions of deep meditative states into softly undulating aural form, and in that regard Dronarivm's slightly more elaborate characterization of it as “(h)ypnagogic passages for the listless and tired” captures its tone all the better. Comparisons between Harper and Celer are as inevitable as they are understandable as, generally speaking, both producers create work that's pared to its essence and whose sense of calm lends itself to reverie and reflection.

There's a seeming programmatic dimension at work in Philippe Lamy's debut CD Slowfast (75 copies), with the sixty-five-minute recording accompanied by a description of a man who, while walking through a desert landscape, is so haunted by sound memories of the past that he carries them with him into the present and future and attempts to use this reinterpretation to “grasp the music of the desert.” That a strong visual component attends the work doesn't surprise, given Lamy's background as a painter, plastics technician, and teacher (at an architecture school in Toulouse, France); the release even includes three photo-image inserts showing fragments of his paintings. In contrast to Harper, Lamy's settings are less stripped-down ambient-drone pieces and more like densely textured soundscapes. No production details are provided, but one guesses that Lamy used samples, processing, and field recordings as source materials. Certainly the eight pieces are packed with the kind of multi-layered detail—hiss, muffled tones, static, crackle, haze, industrial sounds, real-world noises (birds, conversations), etc.—emblematic of the genre. The tracks breathe gently, their details taking their turns at center stage with unhurried ease and maximum clarity. Lamy's efforts pay off in a recording that offers its listener a visual feast for the ears, and there's little doubt fans of artists like Pleq and Machinefabriek should find much to appreciate here, also.

April 2013