Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hola One & Subterminal - Tangency

If some of the music I've been writing about here might be described as the aural equivalent of wandering around the 'space race' section of the Science Museum in London, all rockets and technology, hardware and spaceware, equipment and dreams that are modern, even futuristic, and yet retro and abandoned at the same time, then Tangency, to continue the metaphor, is like an hour spent prowling Tate Modern as an artistic layman. Some of it impresses, some of it baffles and some of it is just bewildering – contemporary, vivid, experimental, challenging. Though it has nothing in common with their music, it resonates with me when I think of The Stranglers and their 'Aural Sculpture' declaration on the Feline LP, not because of content but because of the texture the idea of an aural sculpture itself suggests. And, though again I'm associating a concept outside of its actual definition with the work that's been laid down, carved even, on Tangency, I'd like to suggest that these tracks are almost akin to a continuous tone poem.

So, not our usual fare then. It's a collection of electronic sounds with intoned words where the sounds have a sheen to them that's like opaque glass, a sort of smooth surface but without an immediate transparency to it. Introverted and repetitive rhythms dominate giving the atmosphere of the album a thoughtful and sometimes softly calming aura and it's interesting that on occasion the same track is presented in instrumental and spoken-over or intoned form, which, perhaps because of the reclusive nature of the music, builds on the suite's sense of being a continuous thread.

I'd have to say that the predominate feeling that runs through is one of something that's relentless in being digitally emotionless... that sort of clinical coldness of expression. 'Dark and cold...' breathes... whispers... Bridget Wishart, making a guest appearance on 'Frozen City Ghosts' and in fact that statement seems to be the reflection of much of what infuses and informs these compositions.

It's a record, then, that isn't going to provide immediate gratification or instant access to its intricacies. When I first heard it I found it demanding, almost standoffish in a way, as though it had its secrets that it wanted to maintain internally, rather than give outwards to the listener, but that's not really it, of course. It's more that it wants you to inhabit its soundscapes, it wants you to come inwards and feel the construction, be part of its chimes and rhythms and, perhaps, to be an explorer of its icily crystalline caverns. It's that it would ask you to question what it's about, to challenge it and consider its nature … in that way the opening analogy, that it's the Tate Modern's evolving collections of contemporary questioning, open to myriad of readings and meanings, in comparison to our regular fare's rockets and hardware, seems to be to be a rather apt summation of this quite intriguing work.

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