Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Donato Wharton - Place and Presence (CDr)

A new name to me, Wharton hails originally from Cardiff, Wales but was raised in Germany. Trawling through older tracks available on You Tube, I heard music that was vaguely in Fennesz territory (dreamy melodics combined with glitches), sometimes with a touch of Barry Adamson (extracts from noirish movies embedded in the soundscapes). This recording sounds nothing like that.

Four tracks, each between ten and eleven minutes, all involving sine-like drones and field recordings. When "There are only frequencies" begins, the first thing to come immediately to mind is Michael Pisaro's "Transparent City" series, though there's also something clearly different going on. The wave penetrating the environment (airplane engine prominent) is complex, not, as far as I can determine, attuned to its culled equivalent in the soundscape. Or perhaps it's multiply harmonized. Like all the pieces here, it's fairly steady-state, quavering in place against the ambience, the engine receding, replaced by traffic, gulls, the electronics gradually diminishing to a wooly, faint hum until that's all which remains. Very strong. "It's already there" is even subtler, the electronics reduced to a soft fuzzy glaze, the landscape consistently of distant birds, with the odd shockingly loud crow caw. Again, the piece simply exists there, living up to the album's title--great patience, fine presence. "Turbines 2" interweaves downward spiraling whistles (the turbines, I take it) in a kind of endless arc, à la Tenney, but managing to create a unique space. Donato's ability to hold back serves him well; when he allows some background rustle, very soft, into the mix, the effect is dramatic enough. "Wave wave" concludes the release, almost coming back to where we started, but on an adjacent strand, the sine line a bit more focussed, rounder, gentle waves of the hydrous variety behind, the odd avian twitter. The gradual ramping up as the piece ends, generating a heightend sense of paranoia and claustrophobia, comes as an unsettling but delicious surprise.

Longtime readers are aware that I have a special affinity for music that seeks and locates a relatively narrow sliver, abides there a while and unearths much unexpected beauty. "Place and Presence" fits this to a 't'. Penetrating, intelligent work--don't let it pass you by.

Donato Wharton

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