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CD Feature/ Paul Bradley: "Somatic"

img  Tobias

The handshake between Paul Bradley and Miguel A. Tolosa was an obvious one in a certain sense. Both artists share a love for pure drones and for deep, smooth textures undulating through the filter modulations of an invisible hand, as well as a similar sense of dreamtime development. When Tolosa released “spectra” on Bradley*s “Twenty Hertz” imprint, therefore, this mainly went to emphasise the closeness of their approaches, despite the obviously diverging methods of arranging their material.

The story with “Somatic” is a different one, however, as it proves that they still have a lot to give to each other artistically  and that their styles are strongly susceptible for mutual pollination.

Having said that, the album opens with what constitutes the most classic Bradley-drone we’ve heard from him in a while after he broke his music into colourful shardes of glass on “memorias extranjeras” and lent warm earth tones to it on “Chroma”. For over twenty minutes, a gently piercing, serenely tranquil harmony hovers in the air, transformed only in frequency, stoic and static in its timbre and its direction. There are certainly few other composers out there who can turn the absolute lack of external development into such a breathtaking and majestic experience as Bradley.

This is not where the track ends, however, as the sequence is continually penetrated by fireplace crackles, delicately howling winds and airy whispers as well as a cello playing in a barely audible, high-pitched flageolet. After a stretch of silence, which he uses to both calm things down and to further increase the tension, he then builds the piece in reverse order, beginning with irrecognisable field recordings moulded into ghostly ambiances and then allowing soothing drones in again for a hymnic finale.

Once again, the dichotomy between that which scareth and that which healeth is a red thread. Bradley’s music is so reduced to the most elemental paremeters, that it approximates a force of nature in its own right. And just like a storm can both be a beautiful and a terrible thing to taste, his fearful fen lights, sonic aurora borealis and glistening waters take the ear to places it recognises as deformed Jung’ean archetypes.

Also, his continuing, and often overlooked, efforts to bring structure to a world deemed amorphic have left a mark on “Somatic”. Because these harmonic sheets and non-descriptive, concrete sounds are miles from traditional concepts of themes, motives and variations, the mind assumes they can not be combined into epic compositions with non-linear narratives, but a clear sense of coherence. And yet Bradley manages just that, he creates the sensation of closedness by careful selection of his source material and clever seguing.

The inclusion of microtonal particles and of spontaneously taped semblances clearly sets “Somatic” apart from anything he’s previously done. The drones soar even higher, reverberate even deeper thanks to the contrasting middle section and the piece as a whole is more provocative, associative and even disturbing.

For once, one finds oneself in an unsettling situation with Paul Bradley, instead of being allowed to drift in his hot bath tub. And maybe we have to thank the artistic alliance with Migual A. Tolosa, on whose Con-V label this is published, for that.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Paul Bradley
Homepage: Con-V Records

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