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CD Feature/ Tzesne: "Cliffs under the mist"

img  Tobias
Taken to its extreme, the texture of a sound can be so discreet that it turns tangible again, like a ghost slipping in and out of a physical body for a fragment of a second. That is the kind of fragility Txesus Garate is aspiring to. His music is all whisper, nuance and resonance, yet its subtlety is so intense that it can be overwhelming at times. His search for truth somehow always leads him to structures below the surface and to the threshold of concreteness.

“huffduff”, a short breath on Drone Records, saw him weave the brittle threads of submarine communication into humming quilts of echo. On “Cliffs under the mist”, the water has withdrawn and left a land of fossiles – the past replacing the present with a wordless gesture. 

And that, in all its shining vagueness, is probably the most exact description one can give with regards to an album which eschews sharp outlines and strict contoures. As often with releases on Mystery Sea, there is more information to be had on the “how” of the composition process than on the “when”. This makes perfect sense, as “Cliffs under the mist” actually draws a lot of inspiration from the notion of dissolving time into a moisterous mist and of slowing all movement down to absolute zero. 

For the preparatory sessions to the album, Tzesne visited Quarry Cavila, an old naval bottom close to the Basque country, covering up his microphones to protect them from the burning heat. For hours in a row, his equipment was then left alone to note down every detail of the sea arriving and retreating, leaving nothing but scourched earth and the last remains of prehistoric animals. 

Garate spends days in this place, allowing the elements to release their secrets in their own time. The mist aluded to in the title is a fog occasionally dragged in by the wind, obscurring all sight. In those moments, all perceptive action is reduced to a single sensation: A feeling of depth, of falling into stilness, of succumbing to a sort of horizontal vortex that draws one in and spews one out again as the whiteness disperses. 

Consequently, the album needs to be listened to with adapted organs. If “huffduff” wanted you to become a wave, then “Cliffs under the mist” asks tobe heard with your inner sonar. “The Path” is ninetineen minutes of expansive bass bulges, growing in volume and sonority, then dying down again. Flimsy streaks of high-pitch tones are sprinkled on top in patterns of opaquely indicated melody. Towards the middle of the piece, the atmosphere evaporates and leads into a majestic cave, all hight and width and greenly shimmering darkness, which closes things out in a metallic glow, like sharp-edged cymbals being caressed to sleep by a cool breeze. “Sunburnt Skin” starts off even more demurely, but its loose lines gradually develop into two slightly offset, drilling frequencies battling for supremacy and creating an almost homophonous soundscape in the process. 

In the final installment of the record, “By the dry seas... by the falling leaves”, Txesus Garate manages to keep the listener’s attention for the first minutes of his haunting ghostzone and then, in a miniature big bang, peals a hypnotic closing sequence off a musical vacuum. 

It doesn’t happen all that often, but in this case, I was truly astounded about how he pulled that off. My suspicion is that Garate, despite all of the mystery surrounding his creations, has a precise map of the aural places he builds. And if you know where to go, it is never far from the intangible to the tangible.


Homepage: Tzesne
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records

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