As a medium, recorded music, however it may have come into existence, all gets squeezed into one of a handful of formats, and then beams out of the speakers of our choosing. We hit play and surround ourselves in what someone decided to present as a formed listening experience.
That experience navigates our moods, and our attention spans. We sing, we dance, we play imaginary instruments, it may help us concentrate, ponder, relax, heal, and if you are lucky, become totally consumed by, and hopelessly lost in it.
Over time, we all become attuned to what we like, and here at OBLADADA, whilst it is wide ranging, music that seems to hit the hardest is music that tries to do things in new ways. APEIROZOAN by JH sits spectacularly in that bracket, and it’s easily the most superbly bewildering music we have heard in quite some time.
It’s also clear in our mind the last time we felt anything like this, and it was wrapping our brains around Roland Kayn’s reissue of Tektra. That release, the third in a line of stellar long form works by the German visionary to come our way. The 14 hours of A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound, the 10 of Scanning, the 4 of Tektra that together, form more just more than one Earth day of the most otherworldly music to have hit our brains ever.
Whilst that possibly places a huge expectation on APEIROZOAN, it is completely justified.
Lasting a very specific 333 minutes, in seven parts and spread over 5 inky black CDs, we have another terrifyingly vast exploration that feels like it exists outside the type of considerations that music normally deals in. What we are actually listening to never becomes remotely apparent – an abrasive layered drone that dips and dives, enlarging and contracting in hugely vectored arcs. The surface somehow always just out of focus enough to be suggestive of ghost and mirages of things that more than likely aren’t even present. The sound of musical smears, particles and trajectories all plotted through a monstrous black hole.
Build from a set up details as: Hammond BV organ, analogue filters, guitar + bass amplifiers, spring + plate reverbs, acoustic resonators, voices (in the final part), and processed by a Serge system. What Canadian musician James Hamilton, unassumingly signified by JH is doing with this set up is somehow beyond simple notions of music making.
The track times however point to some form of patterning, Parts I, V and VII all lasting 1:06:18 and Parts II, III, V and VI all half of that, at 33:18. All of which confirms some sort of overarching structure that locks the whole piece into a huge sonic geometry.
Music on this scale also invites you to attempt to unlock it’s secrets, searching around the few signposts given – the names and design of the package. The title of the project APEIROZOAN draws a blank but the word apeirogon feels somehow like a glimmer inside this world. The word, in geometry meaning inifite or boundless angles – a polygon with infinite sides the final part being titled VII | THE THOUSAND POINTED STAR seemingly confirming a weird search engine session.
The typography and design of the box, sleeves and disc all suggest a theme base on SATOR ROTAS, a word square featuring Latin palindromes. The square can be red in any direction and is seen as posing religious and magical qualities… Forwards, backwards, up and down, nothing is any more or less vital. A look at his sizeable discography suggests these themes are themes he continually gravitates towards.
Whatever rabbit hole you choose to jump down, APEIROZOAN feels like something that seems to exist in a zone of hard edged maths blurred into alchemy. After a few attempted to settle in, the results quickly become hugely exhilarating. The huge near episodic blocks of I | AP | CONTRAFACTUM:APPROACHER eventually drifting into agitated layers, II | E | MONUMENT traces the glacial transformation between one fixed point to another.
III | I | GYRE is the thick hum of deep space swarms, filtered through light years of rubble. In fact, in real time, all the music pulls you into something that completely removed from potentially confronting nature that any random 60 second burst, may suggest.
The final part titled VII | THE THOUSAND POINTED STAR feels like the culmination of the whole piece, the only part to actually including voices. But like all the other sound sources, they are merely bounced and reflected into thick vapour trails in endless halls of mirrors. The sound mirages between things your brain tries to label, snatches of planets in turbulence, machines, jet engines, air raid sirens, cicadas, rainforests, caverns all in a moiré pattern of data that could become pixels of something more normally regarded as music.
JH suggests ‘play at high volume in a quiet place with no visual distractions’ and whilst it is one way we have approached the work, the truth is we’ve let the whole thing fill our home for days, sunny days and late at night, and soundtracked walks through the Scottish landscape. The whole thing seems to merge into the background, whilst fizzing around in the foreground however you approach it. Speakers are the source, but the sound seems to seep out of the air, thick silences at full volume, and still hangs in the air and memory when nothing is playing…
Like that magic trick that Kayn’s long form works do, despite seemingly to form a wall of sonic torture for the casual lister, APEIROZOAN actually creates a form of highly active exhilaration. It is music that makes you aware of the ungraspable endless nature of the universe and you somehow one tiny co-ordinate in it. 333 minutes is after all, an instant or a lifetime depending on what point of view you may have.
For anyone open to this adventure, it is hugely recommended, and the questions it suggests seem to be almost more important than the actual answers. There is also a cold brutal edge to much of the sonic landscape drawn here but the lasting sense left in APEIROZOAN’s enormous wake is one of unique but absolutely staggering awe.