N: Suedfall
Midira Records

NoOne: How Doth the Little Crocodile Improve His Shining Tail
Midira Records

Two interesting new soundscaping-related releases from Midira Records, N's a twelve-inch vinyl set featuring two side-long versions of “Suedfall” and the other an hour-long experimental travelogue by NoOne (both issued in 100-copy editions, the first on vinyl and the second CD).

N, real name German artist Hellmut Neidhardt, is nothing if not prolific: Suedfall is his fifty-fourth release. Two passes are presented, side A's the original version, recorded live in 2011 at the Christuskirche Bochum. It's a classic ambient-drone slow-builder that from silence incrementally swells into a wholly enveloping storm. A plaintive, even mournful melody's present at the center, but by the halfway mark it verges on inaudible, buried as it is under a crushing granular mass of controlled noise and largely obliterated by distortion. True to form, the material reaches its climax and then slowly decompresses, the tension dissipating as the volume decreases and the intensity eases. It's an engrossing ride for sure, but to these ears it's bettered by the second treatment, this one a studio run-through featuring electrified violin by Vanessa Kreutz and that originated as a score to a short film by Max Walter called Der blinde Fotograf. Noise and static are eschewed in this subtler pass, the emphasis instead on the buildup and interlacing of graceful string textures. There's a bit of a Frippertronics vibe to the initial quiet section, but it gradually sheds that skin as details fill in, the mass expands, and Kreutz's contributions grow ever more distinct; moments also arise where N's handling of the material suggests commonalities with thisquietarmy's, even if the latter's molten build-ups are fueled by guitar as opposed to violin. As contrasting as they are in certain respects, both versions hew to a similar arc, the B side treatment the decidedly more elegiac of the two.

As mentioned, NoOne's outing (the artist's first physical release) is an hour-long audio drama, a carefully modulated exercise in collage construction with various bits and pieces assembled into an immersive flow. No identity or personal details are provided, the artist preferring to keep the focus solely on the created matter. A few details about the work itself, however, can be reported: its title derives from the Lewis Carroll poem “How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail,” and NoOne's sound design is supplemented by guitar sounds and additional field recordings from Ashtoreth and Vladimir Kryuchev, respectively. Pitched as this kind of thing sometimes is as “a soundtrack for your imagination,” the work might be likened to a haunted ambient soundscape that draws into its murky orbit undercurrents of atmospheric unease as it trudges its way through dense thickets of fragmented melodies, industrial clangour, and ghoulish sounds of various persuasions. All manner of nightmarish sounds emerges over the course of the journey: birds distantly chirp, vehicles course through rain-soaked streets, bells chime, voices murmur, doors slam, strings creepily intone, and electronics flicker and snarl, all of it undergirded by deep ambient rumble and punctuated by decaying melodies, piano-generated and otherwise, and unsettling knocking noises shrouded in mist. Had Midira chose not to issue the material, a perfect alternate home for How Doth the Little Crocodile Improve His Shining Tail would have been Cryo Chamber, the dark ambient tonality of NoOne's release an obvious and natural fit for Simon Heath's label.

February 2018