Visionary Hours: Footfalls Echo
Preserved Sound

Originally issued in early 2015 on Hibernate and now re-issued on Preserved Sound, Footfalls Echo achieves its sense of unity in an unusual way. Typically, a core group of musicians performs an album's tracks; by contrast, most of the eight settings on Visionary Hours' recording treat singular acoustic instruments as their focal points, with a different musician often responsible for the instrument sounds produced. It's from the way in which those instruments have been manipulated that Footfalls Echo's sense of unity is achieved: Preserved Sound showrunner Hayden Berry (aka Visionary Hours) and Richard Formby used tape delay generated through a Revox B77 reel-to-reel tape recorder to reverse and/or slow down the recordings of the acoustic instruments.

Indicative of the approach is the opening piece, “The Stillness of the Violin,” in which the melodic patterns voiced by Dorota Blaszczynska are blurred, multiplied, and generally reshaped into slow-motion undulations. As haunting is “Reaches Into Silence,” though this time it's Teresa Lipinski's flute that's subjected to Berry and Formby's treatments; here the manipulations are pushed to an even greater extreme, given that the clearly defined flute lines with which the piece begins eventually swell into an opaque, flickering cloud formation. Berry is not only a sound manipulator on the project but an instrumentalist, too, as shown by the dream-like entities he births on “Neither From nor Towards” and “In a World of Speculation” using organ and guitars (acoustic and electric). Interestingly, the music on Footfalls Echo is never more stirring than when it deviates from its single-instrument focus with an arrangement for flute, violin, and organ on its resplendent closing track, “Which is Always Present.”

Stylistically, Footfalls Echo oscillates between ambient-classical (e.g., “The Stillness of the Violin”) and ambient-drone, with a blurry meditation such as “Sad Time Stretching Before and After” representative of the latter. A rather hazy aura of psychedelia sometimes emanates from the album material, though the clarity imposed by a recognizable instrument sound is typically on hand to prevent the material from becoming too ethereal. In keeping with the analogue character of the project, the final mix was done on a high-speed four-track cassette and the cover artwork of abstracted tape reels was handcrafted by Katie English using a Lino-print technique, and consequently the project exudes an appealing homemade quality.

September 2016