2015 Artists' Picks
Kevin Kastning
Andy Vaz's House Warming

17 Pygmies
Aaltonen & Haarla
Rodolphe Alexis
Marc Barreca
Le Berger
Book of Air
David Cordero
Council of Nine
Green Isac Orchestra
Anders Lønne Grønseth
Hatakeyama + Serries
Heinen & Borring
William Hooker Quartet
How To Cure Our Soul
Kevin Kastning
Kastning / Clements
Kastning / Szabó
Kastning / Wingfield
Library Tapes
Louis Minus XVI
Rhys Marsh
Palmbomen II
Smith & Lindberg
Robert Stillman
tholl / fogel / hoff
Julia Wolfe

Kosemura, Shinozaki, Nitta

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Collection 100
Landscapes of Fear

EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Amonism + Revenant Sea
Matt Barbier
Hesperius Draco
Markus Oehlen
Greg Sawyer

Book of Air: Fieldtone
Sub Rosa

There's minimalism—and then there's minimalism. At this more extreme end resides Book of Air's Fieldtone, whose title references “roomtone,” the ambient, time-transcending ‘silence' present within a physical space when no music is played or dialogue spoken. The album features four extended instrumentals brought to life by drummer Stijn Cools (also the material's composer), double bassist Nathan Wouters, electric guitarist Benjamin Sauzereau, electric-and-acoustic guitarist Bert Cools, and on kankles (a Lithuanian plucked string instrument) Indre Jurgeleviciuté.

Of the four settings it's arguably the opener “SHEN show tyray” that hews most to a conventional presentation (though “PHIOBERES” isn't terribly dissimilar in that regard), and with Cools and Wouters providing a solid and steady slo-core base for the string players to emote against, the piece assumes an almost jazzy flavour. “SHEN show tyray” ostensibly slots itself into the dark jazz genre when the rhythm section animates the track with a relaxed swing and the guitarists drape textural shades across it, yet it's not lacking in stimulating sounds when Cools contributes a never-ending stream of brushed drums and cymbal flourishes and Wouters punctuates the flow with bass accents. In fact, it's not until the piece's closing minutes that the album's “roomtone” concept really kicks in when the group strips the arrangement down to the core and allows protracted moments of silence to emerge.

By comparison, “SHILLE gwer canne,” much like the skeletal closer “O ram ren chiba,” applies the “roomtone” idea to its full seventeen-minute running time; alternating slowly between muffled cymbal rolls and overlapping strums by the string instruments, the piece lulls the listener into a state of becalmed reverie whose stillness likens it to a Japanese garden. Yet as spacious as the piece is, its level of stimulation matches the opener when the ear's tickled by the guitars and kankles. Yes, there are moments when Book of Air pushes the minimalism idea to the seeming limit, so much so that one could imagine a less patient listener bailing out of a given track midway through. But dedication has its rewards, and the pieces on Fieldtone, as slow as they sometimes are in their unfolding, aren't wholly lacking in charm.

January 2016