Years ago, as a sculpture student, I remember working on a piece that involved assembling a series of drawings on tracing paper. 25 drawings were then placed into a bracket and a powerful spotlight was shone through the stack. The idea was that the drawings connected together to create a 3-dimensional form created from the slices. The viewer would hopefully get a sense of the drawings suspended in a murky space but the biggest impact was something I hadn’t remotely considered. Due to the way the paper filtered the light from the bulb, the entire piece glowed in a wonderful pinkish hue. The cold conceptual edges of the experiment unexpectedly became beautiful and warm.
That very same sense of unexpected chain reactions and discovery is littered throughout this stunning new collection Drift by the Australian musician and composer Rosalind Hall. A process that creates these forms seem to have very little to do with their origins. 3 tracks, adding up to a breathtaking 50-minutes, centres around alto saxophone with spring reverb attachment, synthesisers, percussion, field recordings and electronic processing. In a way, it would be easy to image an exercise in a hall of mirrors style looping but the results here are wonderfully alien and a million miles from much else I’ve heard. Sounds from a huge palette, ground down in a pestle and mortar into psychoactive sonic dust.
The opening track Burden forms an engrossing introduction to this strange new moonscape. The overlapping between sax, and field recordings doesn’t give any sense of clarity to what’s heard, what the sounds actually ever are. A huge sense of rumbling activity, embalmed in layers and layers of processing. The tiny details, the pin point clarity redrawn and redrawn to form huge cavernous arcs of presence. This is the last, most retraced shaving of Alvin Luciers I’m Sitting In A Room as its basic foundation. Water bubbles, helicopters, traffic or spooky plumbing throbbing and pulsing in zero gravity. Whale songs heard on answering machines on another planet.
There is no clear sense of pattern or theme, just an ever-expanding series of events twisting and enlarging. The droning element raises like Folke Rabes What?? around half way through the 16 minutes span before wafting through a deeply krautrock infused heartbeat.
The title track Drift starts with huge warehouse sized slabs before again stepping out into deep space. The form this time takes on the outline of some monastic choir flaring out towards the nebula. The sound crystalizes and sharpen like the telescope has been refocused revealing yet more detail.
By this point, it’s clear, as a whole, the album Drift is a unique and spectacular album that doesn’t sit easily or clearly in any one genre. This is hugely active, psychedelic ambience, laced with a weirdly engaging magnetism. It somehow should fragment, but the blurring here just ties everything together like a vast procession of Venn diagrams…
The final 20 minutes are filled with Descension, mapping out more inky black Tangerine Dream flavoured Zeit or some bulbously ambient remix of Roland Kayn. Slowly the edges start to tear as the piece begins to elongate towards the black hole…
As the album eventually peels off into silence, it’s easy to understand Halls desire to create works that –
‘invoke a sense of claustrophobic infinity’
Small, human sized sounds that immediately transport the listener of into the blackest voids of intergalactic space, all drawn out in our skulls.
Drift is a profoundly effective, active and deeply weird record. The complex set ups, the huge range of elements all boiled, sanded and vaporized into a stunning heady fog. Like the weird pink light I discovered, sometimes the process results in more than the sum of their parts. The side effects, the overlaps, the spaces between, can, it seems, become the main event.
Taken as a live performance, as all these pieces are, it’s easy to imagine gaining an understanding of the process employed by Hall. Experienced as sound alone, simply emanating from the thick matt black antimatter of the sleeve, it’s a wonderful depiction of cosmic rubble, unseen vistas and events floating beyond this world. Drift is the product of working material in a superbly inventive and creative way. The sedimentation of the process results in surprising but totally spectacular music…
Drift is available on cassette here and is out now