Music has a fluid relationship with the listener. Any given piece of recorded music is fixed, but still navigates through a host of variables – the speakers, the headphones, the quality and format of the recording, the condition of the ears, the receptiveness of the brain and the particular characteristics of the room or space it’s played in. In a very real sense, music is an immersive 3 dimensional experience.
A particular location’s impact on sound has long held a fascination with far thinking explorers. Alvin Lucier’s I’m Sitting In A Room takes this to its limits, playing with underlying resonance of a space via repeatedly re-recorded within it. The Deep Listening Band captured vast mind-blowing reverberations by playing within monumental underground cisterns.
M. Geddes Gengras’s remarkable album Interior Architecture from 2016 seemingly moved to address sound responding to space in a different way. After the stunning pinball electronica of Test Leads, and the gaseous new age mist of Ishi, Interior Architecture felt like a whole new level of hallucinatory oddness – a building that slowly constructs in your brain as you listen. The 80-minute stretch of Interior Architecture felt like a fly-through of the ghost of some weird temple. Packed with half shadowed cherubs, rococo styling, huge spiral staircases and strange refractions, it was unsettling, complex and completely magnetic.
The idea of internal and external spaces is again visited in the planet sized Light Pipe. Beaming out over 2 and half hours and 2 CDs. It’s released by Lawrence English’s Room40 label and it’s a sumptuous treat for the mind. Disc one focuses on the internal and the second on the external. The album offers a collection of various works and performances from a host of different locations, playing with the way sound operates in these various settings. Taken as a whole, Light Pipe hangs together as a drifting trip through huge blankets of sound.
The cover artwork follows Room40’s cool asethetic; a simple graphic representation of the music. The sleeve is consumed by huge monolithic blocks with tiny textural elements. Light Pipe deals in the massive ambiguity between x and y. This music could be haphazardly labelled as ambient, but there is continually way too much activity to readily define it. Imagine Gengras performing an all-night set at a club on the next planet – 7 of the 10 tracks are longer than 13 minutes and 2 are just short of half an hour.
Skip Mirror feels like a re-imagining of that trick the jazz bands do of introducing the players one by one – a spacey buffet showcasing the depth, the tones, the range of what follows. The start of the album signals the fragmentation of rhythm, a slow dissolving pulse into a twisting sonic bubble bath.
And Subway almost feels like a quick reference of the opposite – like a scientific control – the only dark space on the album. The strip lights flicker; the briefest inversion of the light that thereafter beams throughout the album.
Nave and Chancel together form an almost 40 minute sequence on the first disc the first mind blower. Both take their titles for architectural elements found in churches and the sound of Nave swells around enormous plucked watery strings tumbling through space. Chancel is even more focussed as a buzzing choir of electricity slowly grows. In a sequence reminiscent of Klaus Schultze’s Irricht, the bubbling undercurrent of electronics grows through the mist like a message from beyond. This music is so potent and lysergic, it bowls you over. Is “Ghost Prog” a genre?
Water Study floods in next and concludes the first disc with a brighter, dreamier kaleidoscope that builds into a huge slowing blurring standing wave.
Cherise and Cherise Reprise open and close the second disc via a 33 minute sweep. A simple figure, slowing morphing back and forth like Eno’s Quartz trapped in a vast prism, the light catching a tiny universe of variations as clouds move across the sky.
Irwin meditates on the spot for almost 26 minutes like the twinkling bubble of an electronically swamped harmonica. Pinnacle bounces around between impossibly huge speaker-warping splodges of sound and droplets of a medieval melody finding a way out of the maze.
Vulture bends and warps like elastic bands slowly accelerating into a black hole while a soaring wall of debris builds before reaching a multi-dimensional conclusion.
Overall, Light Pipe takes the listener to a point so far away from any meaningful frame of reference. Alien sounds and textures presented in ever-changing configurations that are never less than completely amazing, logical and concurrently, startlingly odd.
The information offered alongside Light Pipe suggests:
“It’s music that is ideal for deep immersion; for sleep, for flying and for any creative states within which a sense of expansion is needed.”
For me though, the music here is far more than a passive backdrop. A very real stargate is reached by turning the dial up and actively tumbling around inside this green giant of an album. Over the course of living with this new music, it has informed wonderful sound-tracked nature walks and rooms filled with late night wonder.
Geddes Gengras’ latest touches on the simple physicality of sound – a sense of place, extended duration and the unavoidability of human existence. It’s lofty and truly vast and will reward any listener open to the time it takes to absorb it.
Light Pipe grows out of the particular and peculiar sonorities of different locations but ultimately, the space this album fully activates is that which leads from your ear to your brain. This collection does this with subtlety, burning brightly over its entire duration.
Light Pipe is released on 15th October 2018 by Room40, preorder it here