The Oansome Orbit
Pimmon: Lay Down Real Slow
Berber Ox: The Great Parenthesis
Pimmon's The Oansome Orbit isn't as curious a title as it might seem. The latest work from Australian electronic producer Paul Gough takes its inspiration from Russell Hoban's 1980 science fiction novel Riddley Walker wherein a composite language is presented comprised of unfamiliar words made familiar by context alone—one such word being “oansome.” With the book being about connection and disconnection, Gough found himself drawn to the word for the simple reason that his own disconnected sounds—white noise and effluvial grime, for starters—transport him to places distant and majestic, but in the process also make him feel isolated and, yes, “oansome.” Not that any of that must be absorbed by the listener intent on sampling these latest products of the Pimmon research center. Each piece is a distinct mini-universe of abstract, textural sound, the eight settings like different planets successively encountered with each one dramatically different from the one before. Activity levels are high but not frenetic, and Gough's assured handling of the material enables the listener to relax while taking in the spellbinding scenery.
The panoramic textural detail with which “Passing, Never to be Held” begins immediately identifies it as Pimmon material, though the presence of natural instrument sounds gives Gough's music a new twist. String plucks and bowings appear to be part of the mix, though they're so threaded into the whole they virtually dissolve into it. Surprising, too, is the music's warm and gentle tone—not that Pimmon music has ever been Merzbow-like in volume and intensity. The title track likewise flirts with conventional music-making in weaving organ tones into its thick, electro-acoustic mix, though once again the undertow of the dense arrangement is so strong the keyboard elements gradually merge indissolubly into it. The second piece, “Archangel in Reverse,” moves us closer to the prototypical Pimmon universe in presenting a sprawling, gargantuan mass of industrial churn and gaseous billow that's densely layered in the extreme. Oxymoronic it might be, but, on this track at least, Pimmon's music quietly howls.
Shadowed by the slow march of sine wave tones,“Yicco” creaks and groans as it trudges through a landscape rife with miasma. “Holding, Never To Be Passed,” on the other hand, seems to locate itself at the furthest reaches of the galaxy, so anthemic and grandiose is its character. If ever a Pimmon track could be called symphonic, it's this one—even though its long tones are embedded within a typically opaque mass of rumble and thrum. Long tones also drape themselves across “Düülbludgers,” though in this case they're used to stabilize a galaxy of sputtering electrical organisms. In this most mind-melting of the album's tracks, Gough makes full use of the eleven-minute running time and gradually constructs a power station of such immense force one imagines it could provide enough electricity to keep a small city operating for at least a year or two. In dedicating the album to Broadcaster Tony Barrell, Gough states that “(h)e was able to weave wisps of words and other aural delights, lacing them together (even when they fought it) to create grand galaxies.” Insert sounds for words and the statement could just as easily apply to Gough's own Pimmon creations.
Other recent Pimmon material is also available, in this case in cassette form and issued by the Portland-based Stunned Records. Released in August, 2011 in a limited edition of 111 copies (out of stock, apparently), Lay Down Real Slow presents three pieces of approximately forty minutes duration of Pimmon at his most accessible. The surprisingly becalmed “Block Cipher” embeds piano clusters and tinklings within a bestilled pond of electrical murmur. Smatterings of textural micro-detail punctuate the time-suspending flow, appearing like fleeting blips across the music's surface. In the density of its textural detail, “Cane Toccatore” brings the release closer to the established Pimmon style, though here too the material opts for an approach that's more serene than agitated, especially when it severs all earthly ties and ascends upwards. The B-side's nineteen-minute title track sparkles and shimmers radiantly, its light-speed patterning almost Reichian in its metronomic insistence. Like a turntable stylus stuck in a groove, the dizzying material spins in a perpetual gyroscopic swirl with low-pitched burble an ear-catching accompaniment.
The Great Parenthesis by the enigmatic Berber Ox makes for a natural companion to Lay Down Real Slow, given that both are Stunned Records releases and share the label's heady aesthetic. Its 130th release, which backs three A-side tracks with the aptly titled half-hour opus “Kong,” is like some hour-long symposium on the space-time continuum rendered in abstract electroacoustic form. “Do That Twice,” “Bicycle Thief,” and “Bear And Vortex” feel like slow-motion burrowings into the unconscious where details grow ever fuzzier and spectral presences lurk in the shadows. Plunging even deeper, “Kong” simmers at a sub-atomic level, with grainy winds softly blowing and industrial machinery operating faintly in the background. In contrast to whatever aggressiveness might be suggested by the title, the piece turns out to be an uncommonly gentle setting of ambient drift that rocks ever-so-gently, much like a docked boat during a calm summer's night.
Unfortunately, Stunned Records, which was founded by Phil French (one-half of ambient duo Super Minerals, among other projects) and Myste French (French's partner in Nite Lite) is no more: in August, 2011, the experimental label, a key outlet for psychedelic drone music of the kind represented by the Pimmon and Berber Ox releases, issued eight new cassettes and a CDR, but at the same time announced that those releases would be the label's last.