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CD Feature/ Darren McClure: "Softened Edges"

img  Tobias
These are not good times for masochists. They are pretty good for Darren McClure, though. One of the many soundartists out there who are seeing beauty in rounded shapes, fragile forms, dreamy development and – obviously - softened edges, his sweet and warm style has been gratefully received by a netlabel community hungry for emotions and human sensitivity instead of cool abstractions. Just the right kind of artist to be picked up by Justin Hardison and his “the land of” imprint.

If you’re going to do a physical release, after all, you might as well do it right. And Hardison’s publications have a lot going for them. The disc once again comes in the brown CD-bag made of raspy cardboard typical of the label, with the backcover artwork sprayed onto the carton with white paint  – a haptophile’s dream come true.

And then, of course, there’s the aesthetical relatedness with Hardison’s own work under the name of My Fun. Both artists are fascinated by the romance of the past and by little gestures which can mean so much. Both enjoy keeping a certain naivety to their music, even though they simultaneously strive for utmost perfection in tiny details. And they are equally interested in picking up small-scale noises emmitted by a miniature world running next to ours.

Field recordings, then, are a logical component of “Softened Edges” and their importance is stressed even more by the fact that the phase of collecting them coincides with the actual arranging. Composing, to McClure, means enriching his smooth drones and the occasional clicking rhythm with sounds of nature, technology, cars, planes, camp fires, birds and less easily discernible sources. This exterior material streams through the body of the music like a breath or a heartbeat – they can not be separated from each other. On “Distance” and “Pink River”, the field recordings even take center-stage, with manipulated fragments of frequencies humming and buzzing in the background. On most tracks, though, the two worlds strive for a fruitful and organic symbiosis.

The fact that some of the sounds are very airy and contextual, rather than concrete (such as room tones and various ambiances), means that all pieces have a peaceful mood and a tranquil, gentle and warm feeling to them. Slightly ominous and enigmatic states like “KG Court”, which is propelled by deep bell soundings, and the caffeeine-stutterings of “Tunnel Talk” are the exception in a cosmos of aural caresses. And yet, McClure uses his micro-material in a rather traditional way. His music concentrates on grooves, dynamics, harmony and short melodic sequences interacting with each other. It is as if he were bringing these tiny treasures up to our world and placing them in familiar order to reduce their alien nature.

He succedes because “Softened Edges” is filled to the brim with the love of its creator. The details mentioned above are not the product of an obsessively meticulous mind, but of someone who fosters parental feelings towards his tracks, adding yet more candy and another bar of chocolate to that christmas food parcel. It even shows in the titles: “Let your eyes go” or “Stray Signal” are testimony of an attitude of patience and letting a work grow in its own time. Definitely not a good album for people who can’t sit still and simply enjoy.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Darren McClure
Homepage: The Land Of Records

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