Compilations / Mixes
What's one way to immediately catch your listener's attention and distinguish your work from that of other composers? An arresting choice of instrumentation is certainly one way of going about it, and it's something Monty Adkins knows all too well, based on the evidence of his latest full-length collection Four Shibusa. The clarinet playing of Jonathan Sage and Heather Roche is, in fact, the first sound one hears, and consequently the listener's attention is engaged from the album's outset. And though the Japanese term ‘shibusa' refers to the fundamental simplicity and beauty in everyday objects, the music on the forty-four-minute recording isn't so minimal that it features clarinet playing only, no matter how prominently Sage and Roche are featured. That's because Adkins embeds their playing within four settings whose arrangements constitute fully formed electronic soundworlds of generally restrained character yet nevertheless sophisticated design.
In keeping with its title, “Sendai Threnody” is mournful in tone, with the clarinets weaving in and around one another, sometimes separately and at other times in unison as they make their way slowly through terrain that's so understated it at times seems to vanish altogether. Meditative, too, is “Entangled Symmetries,” which shifts the focus entirely to electronic sounds while still generating an atmosphere of melancholy, even supplication, during its eleven-minute running time. The third setting, “Kyoto Roughcut,” establishes a balance between woodwinds and electronics, with both sounds equally integral to the gradual expansion of sound as the material undertakes measured steps towards a climax. The closing piece, “Permutations,” again positions the clarinet at the forefront, this time with shimmering and ethereal electronics as a backdrop, while staying true to the overall meditative character of the album as a whole. Here and elsewhere, the clarinetists don't solo in any free-flowing, improvisatory sense but instead produce long tones that blend naturally with the backgrounds.
Adkins, who was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, smartly modulates the balance between sounds from one setting to the next, thereby generating contrast and keeping the listener involved. Four Shibusa continues on in the direction he has pursued in recent years and that was recently captured on his 2011 Audiobulb release fragile.flicker.fragment, specifically one focusing on minimalism and immersive listening and drawing upon ambient, electro-acoustic, and experimental electronic music As a result, one could just as easily imagine seeing Adkins material issued on Hypnos and Palace of Lights as much as Audiobulb.