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Hum: "The Spectral Ship"; Richard Lainhart & Hakobune: "Split"

img  Tobias

One could describe meditation as a collaboration between a practitioner and a technique: As long as one minutely follows the stipulated process (such as sitting very quietly in a precisely defined position), it will perform its part of the bargain in return (e.g. by slowly cleansing the lens of perception“). Many drone releases have been influenced both by this thought as well as the aesthetics of minimalism - often associated with meditational paths like Zen. Outwardly, these slowly moving compositions appear to be nothing but tonal ambiances, atmospheres and resonant fields, sculpted into form by a combination of conceptual field recordings and studio technology. Underneath their veil of moodwork, however, they are extending an invitation for listeners to participate and use them as a portal to heigher states of awareness. And without fail, they are making use of the notions of purity and concentration to get their point across.

Russian composer Chistov Dmitry is taking this idea very literally. Disappearing behind the hum-moniker completely, the Moscovite cares nothing for posh images or flashy fotoshoots and even refuses to present his work on any kind of website or (heaven forbid) myspace account. The largest part of his prolific oeuvre has been released on obscure labels or by himself in private editions – signs of a man who likes the music to do the talking. Or perhaps „to do the whispering“ would be more accurate, as „The Spectral Ship“ is one of these records that hardly ever rises above the daily din of the city, turning it into a nocturnal fetish and a somnambulant creature waking when the world goes to sleep. Perhaps it was this introvert character which prevented it from surfacing much earlier in spite of its indisputable qualities: Even though the music was commissioned by Drone Records for its „Substantia Innominata“ series only a short while ago, the basic recordings to these two 12-minute pieces were performed as far back as 1999 and already fully constructed three years later.

The title track is perhaps most explicit in its approximation of musical meditation. For the entire duration of the piece, a rotating sound can be heard on top of grayish drones. It is a soft, metallic tone, akin to the grinding noises of a large millstone and if the listeners permits it to, it seems to patiently ablate layer after layer of worldly distraction from his mind. The constant ebb and flow of the music further enforces the depth of the mantra, which takes a long time to fade in from the void and slowly disappears into the ether of the lead-out groove like a wounded sonic phantom at the end. „Tidal Fire“ is even more mysterious and hypnotic. Distant scratches barely reach the ear, as the music initially drags itself from one stretch of silence to the next. What appears to be nothing than a harmonic speck, however, slowly grows into a luminous pulsation of immensely rich timbral colours. Inside a galaxy of emptiness, a candle flickers brightly, absorbing the audience's full attention. Again, this is both a courageously crafted sound work and a shortcut to the inner eye at the same time: The more one zooms in with active attention, the deeper the journey will go.

The same is very much true for the work of Richard Lainhart. In fact, for those unwilling to see beyond the outer rim of his music, it must seem as though he were revisiting the same piece each time: Lainhart has always been a great proponent of purposefully keeping the palette restricted to nothing but the most essential of colours and even immersed himself in a „one sound“ philosophy for a long time. All those who have ever witnessed him introducing one of his uncountable live performances will also know that the majesty and tranquility of his compositions perfectly mirror his calm and articulate personality – notions of music being a valve and release for cropped-up feelings or of constituting a counterpoint to one's inexpressible character traits simply do not apply here. Contrary to his volubly expressed thoughts on anything from music software to analog synthesis and musical history, his pieces do not appear to contain any palpable statements. Resting within itself and sublimating into pure timbre, it is always the music that's the message. Careful observation rather than excruciating decryption seems appropriate here.

Consequentially, „The Luminous Air“ comes across as an object made of pure light. Its construction is simple: Harmonically related oscillations are swelling and decaying slightly out of sync with each other, creating a resonant field of changing barrycentres. Delicately, Lainhart adds streaks of consonant tones, which gradually melt into chord-like choirs. As the piece gains in density, it sheds some of its breathing dynamics, turning into focused beam building up towards a composedly triumphing climax. Carefully upholding the symmetry, the music retreats into its shell in the second half of the piece in what could be taken for a very long fade-out. Hakobune's contribution is, if anything, even more fragile and quiet, like a distant echo. It is almost as though he were performing Lainhart's piece by ear after having listened to it in Chinese whispers, always preferring to say a little less rather than adding too much.

Again, the input of the audience is of seminal importance here. Taken as aural wallpaper, Lainhart's music is as ephemeral as the first rays of morning light floating through the room like a cloud of glistening dust. It is only in the act of concentrared perception that it reveals its power. Rifts start opening up, trenches of molten harmonics and deep pulsations are becoming visible and the logic of the work is divulged to those who want to know. It is certainly not always the same piece Lainhart is playing, but perhaps always the same source he is returning to – yet another point where listening to his music and meditating are alike.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Richard Lainhart
Homepage: Hakobune
Homepage: Drone Records
Homepage: Tobira Records

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