The Lullaby League: Dormio Animus

Pawn: Glass + Breath

On Dormio Animus, The Lullaby League—San Francisco-based Evan Sornstein (piano, clarinet, atmospherics) and Londoner Jacob Phelps (guitars, bass)—casts a ravishing spell with three meditative ambient-electronic settings that draw upon centuries-old musical and textual materials. Musically, the material is based on “animal fugues” from Michael Maiers' Atalanta Fugiens, while the texts (recited with wry formality by actor Stephen Kemble) come from Mijn Grote Vooruitgang , the private diary written in 1607 by the Dutch Alchemist Pietur Van Zouten. Strip away the tracks' voiceovers and you'd be left with Eno-styled ambient settings filled with softly tinkling pianos and deep streams of guitars and electronics and that are as peaceful and lush as they are time-suspending; include Kemble's recitation and you've got arresting reflections on rebirth, knowledge, identity, and time that suggest autumnal musings recorded by a medieval scientist-philosopher in his study while a fireplace crackles. The Lullaby League's stated pledge is to “weave soft, secret tales of beauty and vibrancy for children and parents alike,” and it's a pledge Dormio Animus realizes in the most arresting manner imaginable.

Following mere months after the release of the Symbolic Interaction release, Kitchen, Pawn's Glass + Breath is the more satisfying of the two, in part because the earlier disc included only four originals (supplemented by four remixes) and thus provided only a modest sketch of Hideki Umezawa's talents. Much as he did on Kitchen, Umezawa again uses real-world samples recorded in his apartment (tea cups, household items, and assorted other found sounds) and stairwell to generate restless and detail-heavy electroacoustic set-pieces. A track title such as “Glass + Wind Bells” hints at the sound sources involved, while the very title “It's Always Around Us” conveys the resourceful aesthetic Umezawa deploys in generating his material. “Glass” figures into the title of four of the seven pieces, so it's no surprise that the material often shimmers radiantly. “Field” features bird chirps and glockenspiel tinkles, and “Cloud Tap” is a whirlpool of rustling, rattling, tinkling, and sci-fi electronic tones, but most of Pawn's limpid settings feature slow-motion whorls of glassy shimmer and softly flickering electronics.

Finally, no commentary on these Dynamophone releases would be complete without mention of their design, as the label again distinguishes itself from the competition by housing the discs in beautiful, circular tin cases.

August 2009