Illuha: Interstices

Seaworthy and Taylor Deupree: Wood, Winter, Hollow

Seaworthy (Cameron Webb) and Taylor Deupree would seem to be such natural bedfellows, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Wood, Winter, Hollow is their first full-length collaborative effort. And the forty-minute recording is a collaboration in the truest sense, as Webb traveled from his native Australia to work with Deupree during a snow-cold February in New York in place of the by now common practice of long-distance file exchange. To create the album, the two spent three days recording sounds at a 4,000-acre nature preserve near Deupree's studio called Ward Pound Ridge, a locale teeming with plant and animal life, and then shaped the material into Wood, Winter, Hollow during evenings at the 12k studio.

The photograph of wintry woods on the album cover was thus no arbitrary choice, as it directly reflects the setting that provided Webb and Deupree with both inspiration and raw material. The recording is structured in an interesting way, too, with three tracks featuring musical instruments—Webb credited with nylon string guitar, E-bow, field recordings (including hydrophones placed within streams), and noises, and Deupree loops, effects, E-bow, Jupiter-8, and percussion—separated by two short field recordings-based interludes. Wood, Winter, Hollow is thus also a collaboration in another sense, one involving the musicians interacting with the sounds of the winter forest. If there is a main instrument, it's Webb's nylon string guitar, which is often multi-layered and presented in such a way as to simulate the live interplay of two guitar players. It's hardly the only instrument sound, however, as synthesizer, bells, glockenspiel, and melodica also contribute significantly to the overall sound fabric.

Wrapped in the atmospheric textures of outdoors field recording details, “Wood” establishes the recording's mood in its unhurried presentation of contemplative guitar musings, ambient electronics, and soft glockenspiel tinklings. The setting seeps into the track subtly as an omnipresent rustle of leaves blown by winter winds accompanied by the flow of a nearby ice-covered stream. Musical elements are largely stripped away from “February 21, 2013” and “February 22, 2013” to allow the environmental details to assert themselves in their purest form. The longer settings “Winter” and “Hollow” (sixteen and eleven minutes, respectively) perpetuate the meditative character of the opener, but the material never drags for unfolding in such measured manner. On the contrary, the album constantly stimulates the senses with its abundant flow of natural and man-made detail.

Released concurrently with Wood, Winter, Hollow is another collaborative work albeit of a rather different kind. As its title suggests, Interstices is not Illuha's (Tokyo-based Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date) formal sequel to its 2011 12k debut, Shizuku, but is instead an in-between set scheduled to be followed by a projected 2014 sophomore album. Differentiating Interstices further from a regular 12k release is the fact that it's classified as part of the label's Limited Series, “a casual series of unique, limited edition releases with no particular set of rules or guidelines except to be used as an outlet for new ideas, live recordings, conceptual works, re-releases, or other music to be quietly released beneath the radar.” The word casual is a potentially loaded term in implying a certain slapdash quality, as if the artist has been given license to release something of questionable quality that won't be judged in the same way as a formal release. But while the three live pieces are infused with a relaxed, pressure-free spirit, Interstices suggests no lack of care on the part of its creators.

The tracks' generous running times (between thirteen and twenty-seven minutes) certainly provides the duo with ample room for exploration, and they make good use of the opportunity. Though instrumentation details aren't provided, electronic and acoustic sounds appear, with guitar, synthesizer, percussion, electronics, and piano among them, and various processing treatments applied liberally. The opener “Interstices II” unfolds organically, with Fuller and Date patiently weaving multiple instrument patterns into a subdued, twenty-four-minute meditation befitting the Yougenji Temple setting where it was recorded in April 2012. In “Interstices I (Seiya),” a softly sparkling array of pastoral sounds slowly blossoms before the track's most distinguishing aspect, a poetry reading by Tadahito Ichinoseki, appears. Micro-slivers of sound create a shimmering effect akin to sunlight reflecting off of a summer pond's surface. “Interstices III” hews to the classic ambient template in presenting a luscious evocation awash in field recorded nature sounds (creatures and elements), blurry guitar textures, and quietly radiant synth tones. It's not only a beautiful piece but a remarkable illustration of Illuha's ability to sustain a particular mood for twenty-seven entrancing minutes.

Illuha apparently was inspired to undertake two tours of Japan and one of America's west coast in response to the comparatively hermetic process by which Shizuku was recorded. Put another way, Fuller and Date wanted to discover what the experience of creating their music live would be like, and a natural outgrowth of the undertaking was that their music-making came to be infused with a greater degree of clarity and cohesiveness. Ample evidence of that effect is displayed throughout Interstices, which makes its seem less an in-between recording and more like a fully legitimate part of the larger story the group's in the process of writing.

August-September 2013