Linear Bells: The Stars Will Shine

The Stars Will Shine certainly gives the impression of being a portrait of the artist in the most complete sense. Issued on Soft, the non-profit ambient label founded by composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound artist David Teboul aka Linear Bells in late 2013, the double-CD set spreads fifteen pieces across an encompassing 147-minute running time. Further to that, everything on the release was composed, recorded, processed, and mastered by the Nantes, France-based Teboul with the exception of one piece that's credited to him and Porya Hatami. There's a clear contrast between the two discs, with the first presenting eleven relatively concise pieces and the second four long-form settings, two of which are so immersive they push past the twenty-five-minute mark.

Exquisite moments abound on the recording, whose contents feature a carefully woven tapestry of field recordings, instruments (piano, cello, etc.), and sound treatments, many of them derived from acoustic and analog sources. The soundscapes unfold methodically, with Teboul confidently allowing the material to breathe naturally and develop organically. On a release that emphasizes texture more than most, vinyl crackle is prominent, with many a track smothered in crackle and dust. In fact, the ripples of surface noise that lend a rhythmic lilt to “Beach Ruins” are so thick, they almost overshadow the track's seagull cries and fluttering instrument sounds, and much the same could be said about “Bring Me the Mountains” and the aforementioned Hatami collab, “Too Young to Die.” Field recordings—their origin not identified—also appear within many pieces, among them “Wide Open,” which accompanies piano shadings with the sounds of someone trudging through watery terrain (ducks and speaking voices also heard).

Particularly entrancing is “Somewhere to Sleep” and its polyphonic drift of strings and atmospheric piano filigrees. Though the string instruments might possibly be synthetic simulations of the physical instruments, the simulation is convincing, especially when their plaintive lines are voiced with all of the vibrato associated with the acoustic instrument. The graceful piano episode that dominates the closing minutes of “Little and Pretty” also stands out, but perhaps the recording's peak moment is “The King and the Frog,” which opens the second disc with a stirring piano-based setting whose chiming reverberations and chord progressions are truly haunting.

Teboul has provided little information to go along with the release, so what little there is—track titles, specifically—assumes greater significance as a result. And so it is that the melancholic “Super Dive” feels exactly like the deepest of plunges into an immense soundpool of processed piano playing, while “Run” quite literally punctuates musical material with the apparent breaths of a long-distance runner. There's much to admire about the release and little of which to be critical, even if one might reasonably question whether “Too Young to Die” and “Waterfalls” need to be so excessively long to achieve their intended effect. All individual track considerations aside, there's an impressive and encompassing scope to The Stars Will Shine that earmarks it as the most definitive account of the Linear Bells project to date.

July 2014