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The [law-rah] Collective: " it is..."

img  Tobias
Bauke van der Wal is one of the few composers who can make the term “audio director” seem plausible. His work under the [law-rah] collective banner has been marked by a mutual, frutiful and integrative cross-fertilsation of different art forms: While “Drones for Drella” sought to transcribe Andy Warhol’s oeuvre into music and “1953” constituted a dark hybrid of concept album and radio play, his collaborations in the field of video and ballet have regularly been guided by a strong sense of narration. The same can be said for “ it is...”, which places equitable emphasis on psychoactive sounds and a stringent script.

While “1953” explicitely dealt with the Dutch flood disaster, however, we are in the territory of pure ideas and abstractions here, of doubts, belief, life and death: “Water Torture” appears to enter the mind of a catatonic schizophrenic only minutes before committing suicide as a  way of finally being able to feel again, while “Heaven” and “Hell” are clever rhetorical polemics against the anti-sensual-enjyoment-stance of Christianity. Hiekelien van den Herik once again delivers spoken word contributions for van der Wal on this set of two delectably packaged 3’’ CDs and her meticulously measured and finely formed words reveal a passion for subtely integrating finely sinewed aspects of acting into her speach.

Sound-wise, the [law-rah] collective is one of the few projects which can do without the usual washed-out opaqueness of the drone-genre to draw the listener in and van der Wal one of the few producers who refuse to play tricks on his audience by piling layer upon layer to create the illusion of depth. His pieces evoke an immediate physical reaction, like a mass of miners drilling for gold right next to your ear. There are no secret doors, subliminal streams of sound running like an ambivalent affluent underneath the surface or hidden meanings to his music. Instead, his choice of inwardly complex, subvesive timbres allows him to focus on resolutely shaping and influencing their plasticity. Watching the [law-rah] collective in action is akin to observing a sculptor modelling his objects in real time, transforming an amorphous, raw piece of clay into a sublimely detailed work of art.

“ it is...” also serves as proof how much van der Wal has matured as an arranger. All his tracks have a curved sense of storytelling, never taking the easy, linear way of arriving at their destination. On “Water Torture”, he first sets the mood with a ten-minute opening segment, growing from a raw rhythmical ripple into a grimly flowering soundscape, before reducing the spectrum to a tension-fiiled soft Didjeridoo-like Drone and Hinkelien’s voice. On “Hell”, too, he paves the way for her with his music by opening with a thematic outtake from underground movie “Island Script”, featuring Steve Buscemi’s pivotal line: “When you want something really bad and you close your eyes and you wish for it, God's the guy that ignores you.”

The technique of building tracks from several parts and binding them together with intuitive logic and a clearly spelled-out meaning awards an intruiging sense of cinematography to the album: This is not the kind of music you can put on for mere background consumption. Even though its predominantly discreet methodics (discounting the occasional heavy noise semblance) do not rudely clamour for attention or force anything upon the listener, there is a prevailing feeling that you’re going to miss out on something unless you dedicate yourself to the act of perception completely and unconditionally.

Having said all this, neither van der Wal nor van den Herik are your prototypical Hollywood divas. It is their unconditional and complete immersion into their subject matter, which turns “ it is...” into such a lucid vision and into a veritable “audio movie” to boot.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: the [law-rah] collective
Homepage: Spectre Records

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