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CD Feature/ Michael Santos: "The Happy Error"; The Green Kingdom: "Laminae"

img  Tobias

We all have our daydreams. Some, however, have decided to make fantasy their primary residence. Like the protagonist of Dostoevsky’s “White Nights”, they wander the mysterious terrain of their fancy, amazed at its enormous expanse and bewildered by the richness of its bright colours, sweetly drugging perfumes and breathtaking sounds. In the few moments when they do return from their amazing excursions, the physical world always appears so much less enticing and exciting, so dull, cheerless and numb that it should seem absurd to them that this unadventurous and greyish place could ever give birth to such tantalising thoughts.

Judging by their two latest records, Michael Santos and Michael Cottone are that kind of dreamer. Luckily for us, however, they have decided to collect some field recordings on the road for us to partake in their wondrous adventures. “The Happy Error” and “Laminae” sound very much like albums by boys in love, like the soundtrack to a longing that only a deep kiss by that one special person can satisfy. The warmth radiated by their textures is not one of December's glowing fire places but of the last days of Summer, when mornings are still bright and the evenings still dazed, but the carefree joy of spending entire afternoons at the beach has given way to a singular combination of regret and peaceful tranquility.

“The Happy Error”, especially, is marked by a disarming multiple duality: On the one hand, it envelopes the listener whole, on the other it leaves plenty of space for his or her own creativity to run wild. Its structures are open and yet clearly delineated – unlike many comparable releases which combine metallically rasping, organically crackling and discreetly grating micronoises with harmonic layers of drones, Santos actually weaves his sonic carpet along the lines of cyclical chord schemes, looping them ad infinitum while gradually increasing the weight of the frisky effects placed on top.

Rhythm is an important aspect of the album’s philosophy, not just as the result of the inner tension of its atmospheres, but as a quite tangible bubbly forward propulsion. There is actually a lot of activity going on in these pieces, which seems so unhurried and unperturbed at first. This is probably down to the effort of finding a fresh perspective: Santos’ starry-eyed world is a childhood wonderland rather than a whistful cabin built on the grounds of adolescent nostalgia. The cover artwork depicts a gaudy Ferris Wheel and the record takes you back to the days when you would visit a fun fair with a balloon in your hand and your parents would have to hold on to your hand to prevent you from running into a thousand different directions all at once.

Compared to the cloudy, overtone-rich production of “The Happy Error”, Michael Cottone’s second full-length album under the Green Kingdom moniker appears as hazy and viscous as thickly glistening maple syrup flowing on the auburn surface of an Apple pancake. His pieces are more stretched-out than Santos’ short, scene-like compositions, sleepwalking through corridors of cotton candy with both eyes closed. Sheets of sound heave and breathe, a pastoral Glockenspiel melody appears out of nowhere, a looped Kalimba motive loops into a gentle maelstrom and then, just when you were about to decide all of this was pretty petty and overly casual, you discover that it is getting hard to rise from your chair: Your limbs are pleasantly heavy, your breath is deep and relaxed and Cottone has got you in a seductive trance.

“Laminae” is so much more than an aural refuge for stressed-out ears, however. The result of years of continued reconsidering, recombining, recomposing and eventually returning to the simplicity of the first, inspired moment, it manages to peal structure and immediacy from essentially free-flowing ambient clouds. Cottone is unafraid of allowing the occasional dissonant Piano tone and impurely plucked Guitar string into his soundscapes, he uses whispery thunderstorms and silently babbling brooks for instruments, sends out pulsating waves on his cosmic Rhodes and builds tension through a careful friction between complete outward harmony and a galaxy of diversely interrelated micro-events underneath the surface. Nothing lasts forever here and sometimes, you find yourself reminiscing that one, irresistible moment of bliss which will never return. But isn't such a moment sufficient for the whole of a man's life?

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Michael Santos
Homepage: The Green Kingdom
Homepage: Baskaru Records
Homepage: Thelandof Records

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