Saturday, November 21, 2009


Graham Lambkin - Softly Softly Copy Copy (Kye)

I've listened to this an awful lot over the past couple of weeks, enjoying it immensely yet finding it unusually difficult to write about. I think it has to do with the disjunction between the relatively common and identifiable elements Lambkin sets into play and the subtle nature of their relatedness, an ineffable sense of rightness about the structure. One hears water sounds, bells, strings (Samara Lubelski on violin), guitar plucks (Austin Argentieri), wind, none of them all that attention-riveting in and of themselves. But the groupings, the layering and the sequencing are fantastic, endlessly surprising and sometimes quite moving. Two tracks, each about 20 minutes long. The bulk of the first plays the bells against water and wind recordings, the latter seeming to incorporate a good bit of microphone abuse (or perhaps it's just rough-edge contact mic work). It's extremely immersive, though; the listener aurally plunges through the jagged space, banging from this crag to that, glimpsing a clearing here and there, then back into the smoke and rock. There's a pause about twelve minutes in as if an aperture has been reached, after which one emerges into a somewhat more electronic area, large and hollow, less congested. Vinyl static, birds and rushing water appear. Howler monkeys? We may be in a zoo, or dreaming we're in one. Wonderful work.

Coming into this release, a natural question was whether Lambkin, following his brilliant "Salmon Run" would continue to make use of extracts from obscure classical recordings. Part of me was hoping he wouldn't, that "Salmon Run" would stand apart as unique item. Listening through "Softly Softly Copy Copy" for the first time, I was pleased that this seemed to be the case...until the last five minutes of the second track. But, I have to say, I'm very glad he chose to revisit that area as the results are gorgeous. The piece begins with similar material as was heard in the first: some violin, birds water, deep clatter. It's airier, though, and more rough and tumble in assemblage, less a drop through the abyss, more splayed out in horizontal space. There's more of what sounds like distorted vocalizing, grunts and moans not so dissimilar from Ashley's dream-speak. The howler monkeys and bells reappear; we seem to be back where we were at the end of the last track and it's every bit as absorbing. But then, at about the 15 minute mark, Lambkin shifts to a gentle sequence of backwards tapes over hushed dronage and random clicks and whistles. A harsh second or two of noise ushers in that sole classical ladling, several low, throbbing notes on the piano (I've no idea as to the source)--this is shockingly beautiful enough, but he layers in what seems to be a female voice or, more precisely, the intake of her breath prior to speaking and the "sh" sound of her first word. Both the piano and the voice are looped, providing a irresistibly lush cushion that segues into a soft, harmonium-like section, then quiet water, ending the piece. Very, very beautiful.

One of the best things I've heard this year, do yourselves a favor.

available from erstdist

10 comments:

Jesse said...

Boy, nicely written, Brian.

Jon said...

still figuring out my thoughts on this one, but I've also been listening to it a lot.

it reminds me in a way of John Wall's mid-period work, careful collages by hermetic composers incorporating prerecorded instrumental fragments.

Anonymous said...

Includes subliminal messages,and they're all positive

Lars Gotrich said...

For the last three years, Graham Lambkin has continually fucked with my ideas of sound. Listening to this LOUD for the first time right now.

Jared Wells said...

Can anyone identify any of the classical music fragments Lambkin uses on 'Salmon Run'? I find them haunting and am curious to hear them in their original context. Help anyone?

mrsblucher said...

The soprano sounds like Alide Maxia Salvetta on Franco Battiato's 'Juke Box', but that's a long shot guess. . .You should get it anyway if you don't have it ;)

Jared Wells said...

Cool. I checked that out, pretty interesting stuff. Is very similar but not Lambkin's sample; any other ideas/recommendations?

Brian Olewnick said...

I thought something had been unearthed at IHM back earlier this year, and found this post from Grisha:

after some googling i am quite sure that at the start of the album it's Shostakovich. it should be from "Seven Romances on Poems of Aleksandr Blok" from 1997, the closing song of the seven.

Jared Wells said...

Thanks! Any info about the specific recording?

Brian Olewnick said...

In that same thread ("Graham Lambkin"), iirc on page 8 or 9, there's some discussion on the specific recording.