Library Tapes: Fragment
Library Tapes: A Summer Beneath the Trees
The music David Wenngren's produced under the Library Tapes name has evolved considerably since its earlier days. That originating style is documented on the 2005 release Alone in the Bright Lights of a Shattered Life where decaying atmospheres are sculpted from field recordings, computer, ghostly piano, and guitars. The mood is often funereal and the music hermetic, with states of introversion and despair translated into sound. Created using only piano and various found sounds, the recent Höstluft pushes that hermeticism to a further extreme. By comparison, the Library Tapes one meets on Fragment and A Summer Beneath The Trees is a different animal altogether. Gone is the enclosed, self-contained universe and in its place a sonically rich and communal music where Wenngren's piano playing is augmented by contributions from guests Peter Broderick, Sylvain Chauveau, and Danny Norbury.
Given the connotation of incompleteness, Fragment is a bit of a risky title choice, especially when the EP's eight pieces sound anything but unfinished (Broderick appears on three tracks and Chauveau one, with the two adding strings, celeste, and guitars to Wenngren's piano). Opening in a mood of Satie-like tranquility with the piano-only “Fragment I,” the release opens up in the second piece with Wenngren's keyboard joined by soft tinkles and bowed string accents before settling into waltz mode. The fifth fragment gives the lead to a stately string theme with piano providing sparse punctuation and field noise lending atmosphere, while a groaning string drone anchors a lyrical violin fragment and blurry piano accents in the eighth. Throughout the EP, elegant classical-oriented settings alternate with atmospheric mini-soundscapes where field recordings and dusty old pianos intertwine.
A Summer Beneath The Trees' nine pieces are distinguished by expansive arrangements that signify Wenngren's artistic growth and the positive impact his guests have had on his work. Following a lovely string-based overture featuring Norbury's cello playing (“The Sound of Emptiness Part 1”), “Pieces of Us Were Left on the Tracks...” threads pensive piano minimalism in amongst mournful string lines and acoustic guitar picking before gradually swelling into a dramatic waltz and ending with a field recording of a train rolling along the tracks. The markedly sunnier disposition that emerges in “Above the Flood” aligns Wenngren's music all the more closely to Broderick's, and a hint of Irish jubilation even surfaces in the song's bright string theme. Uplift and affirmation likewise infuse “The Modest Triumph” which, to some degree, recalls the joyous spirit of Michael Nyman's uptempo style. The album's lovely closer, “...And the Rain Did Fall,” features a lovely rising and falling guitar melody whose lulling quality is nicely enhanced by Wenngren's restrained accompaniment. During its eleven-minute duration, the piece's stately waltz rhythm slowly swells in volume and intensity, becoming more aggressive as it nears its climax.
Having showcased his own piano playing artistry on Docile and his instrumental range on Float, Broderick proves to be a natural partner for Wenngren on both Library Tapes releases. Their styles are so simpatico, in fact, one could perhaps hear Float and A Summer Beneath The Trees as the work of the same artist. Finally, one of the biggest developments in the Library Tapes style is the movement away from vignettes to long-form compositional structures. At seven and eleven minutes respectively, “Pieces of Us Were Left on the Tracks...” and “...And the Rain Did Fall” are, by Library Tapes standards, hour-long symphonies compared to the modest track lengths that dominated past releases—simply one more significant development in the ongoing Library Tapes story.