Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Evan Caminiti - Dreamless Sleep

More Evan Caminiti! Does he ever sleep? First appeared on A Closer Listen.

It’s amazing what can happen to us in a year. Something we did twelve months ago can mean something entirely different or fail to resonate with us today. Such a gap in time is what allowed Evan Caminiti to take a leap in compositional scope for Dreamless Sleep. While this album still exists in an ambient realm its stylistic shift sounds a whole lot more like Tim Hecker, someone quite familiar with drastic mutations of original source material. Whatever side of consciousness you’re on, this album is welcoming, though it is oh so clear that Caminiti composes at night and for the night.

Between Barn Owl and Higuma, his myriad solo guises as well as touring the world and the many musicians wanting to collaborate, it is easy to understand how the Dreamless Sleep recordings were put on the back burner. After recording guitar and synthesizer to a 4-track in 2011, life happened, and it was not until a year later that Caminiti revisited these compositions. Compared to previous records, including this year’s earlier release Night Dust, this album plots a different course to arrive at a slightly more articulate dream-space, one whose details are more memorable upon waking.

Shades of  Caminiti’s psychedelic, western landscape can be heard through the sparkling drift, but Dreamless Sleep has cleaner edges to follow. The drone, both the subtle and the huge, are present, but rather than being left in the murk to one’s own devices, the listener is gently led by the hand into a rich narrative. “Symmetry” represents a defining moment in Caminiti’s emergence from static to clarity. It begins with tape hiss and soft cycles of fuzzy energies flurrying beneath the surface like an iridescent school of fish. A skyline opens up with a series of synthesizers and echoing tones before the staying voice of guitar appears. Only a few notes are used and sustained, but this guitar serves as a calming beacon, a calming thread to follow.

“Absteigend” uses hushed voice and breath to create shuttering percussion while guitars and synths create a nocturnal chorus. It’s easy to let Caminiti’s albums pass by without really noticing the details, but it is Caminiti’s clear voice on guitar that ensures that Dreamless Sleep does not solely exist in a hypnagogic state. “Veiled Prayers” has fading chords simmering through a hot amp to create a gentle brushing of sound. “Becoming Pure Light” grounds the album in Caminiti’s familiar sky-scraping guitar weather, and it’s the choral voices creating the blanket of stars that helps take the style to another level.

In all, this album is a healthy maturation. For many listeners, the guitar ends up being the familiar light to follow but with more time spent on each composition an entirely new world opens up. Fan are so often impatient for certain bands to just hurry up and release something already. Caminiti has been too prolific and active to even get to this release until now – much to our benefit! Once again it is clear that this man takes great care in expanding his craft.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Maninkari - Continuum Sonore

The French duo Maninkari crafts music with a haunted sensuality. Mythical and improvisational in spirit, the sounds are activated in solitude, at night. Imagine The Necks playing in a vampire opium den; it’s not exactly the soundtrack for reading my four year old to bed (although not impossible!). Much like Maninkari’s 2-disc debut album Le Diable Avec Ses Chevaux, mostly older instruments make up the duo’s sound. Old wood and strings contain rich resonance and, as Olivier and Frederic Charlot have said, unlimited sustain. Thus, when given a proper listen, it is delightfully easy to discover yourself at the edge of the world in the Asian Steppes, the desert full of distant red-eyed raiders, and minarets peaking out of canyons.

Curious is that after a number of albums and EPs, Continuum Sonore is the duo’s first drone record. “Part 1” grounds the proceedings with a slow crawl of bodhran and toms, but the tide of drone soon washes the percussion away for the rest of the album. The cymbalom (a Hungarian hammered dulcimer) is used for much of the ambiance; its strings glisten like the setting sun atop the ocean in “Part 1” and reverberate the way sparks bounce off of steel in “Part 6”. When cymbalom is present, it’s as if the hallway is lit with torches, and when other elements take the lead, the shadows move about, and the irrational mind must fill in the blanks.

The strength of Continuum Sonore is contained in its rich and mysterious variety. “Part 2” takes another ancient, ritualized sound – church bells – and sets it to drone, while “Part 3” is a brief Transylvanian synth mantra. The gem of the album is the meditative, 18-minute weatherscape in “Part 4.” Sporting zombified kinetics that grow slowly, this piece is truly something new for Maninkari. Shimmering effects are the breath while a lugubrious, distorted sine wave is the boat. An intensity increases like a rush of wind over a corpse on a giant sand dune. The duo has never shown this level of patience, a skill toddlers are inversely proportionate to. When I was able to get through this piece without interruption it truly was special.

There are folks that would label this music as “dark”. Granted I can only hear its power when the sun is down, my family asleep, but it’s no darker than the horrors locked away in our own emotional corridors. In fact amongst these sounds I find many footholds and textural branches to hold onto and climb. The truth in the music is shared by that in a coat of feathers or a bed of quartz. Its tone of pausal reflection meets me when I awake in the middle of the night and watch my children sleep, their wild, unstoppable bodies in stasis. I forget the beautiful trauma of the day, and think how wonderful. Maninkari has always been visually evocative (the group has even scored several films), and it is this album’s stylistic dynamics that makes it such a rich listen. Ensure you are not interrupted.

Originally published on A Closer Listen
Here's a link with sound samples.