Tempered field recordings and instrumental detritus (Vitiello) meet peculiar modular tweaks and harmonized electronic efflatus (English) to create a collage commingling a widely sourced tonal palette, retaining integrality.
Last encounter with Lawrence English was up close on Wilderness of Mirrors, with Stephen Vitiello a distant sighting In the Garden of Sonic Delights, a New York exhibition. Their latest coupling for Dragon’s Eye follows the previous Acute Inbetweens (2011) in general sound architecture, sharing interests in modular synthesis, the intersection of acoustic and electronic instruments and field recordings; but the Crónica release was more liminal, at a remove, while Fable is more present, with a pronounced physicality. Accompanying bio notes that English’s sound work invites listeners to ‘explore their own narratives and impressions informed by personal histories and experiences,’ the pair billed as ‘creators of mythology’ which ‘renders a series of acoustic spaces, haunted by narrative and hinting at happenings unseen, but certainly heard.’ (DE press release)
Myth and narrative serving suggestion comes via English’s cover photo, imagery suggestive of nature and time lapse, seeking to transfer a fabulous freight to the music. A sense of temporal dilation comes in auscultation to various chimes, bells, bowed and scraped metals, textured and intricate, the couple crafting multi-textural drift works striated with instrument fragments–sounds identifiable and acousmatic. The gamelan-y chimes and field sounds of birds, bells, and people rippling through the likes of “Over Inland” conjure up a pensive pacific environment in a minor key meditation—a kind of marine-washed locale via accrual of sonic signifiers of Exotica from the physical world, a quiet riot of rattles and glides and noises off. A balance between delicacy and intensity is in evidence, fizzing with arrhythmic percussion, field recordings, prepared piano and vintage synthesis coalescing with chimes on the twinned “A Chime for the Fable” and the tense twilit “A Fable For The Chime” with its atonal gamelan tones and bird chirps, guitar shades and synth flutter. “Encased In Blue Marble” comes like an incursion into the sanctuary of the wild–a strongly synthetic dive into the darkest depths recalling English’s best power ambient drone work. Contrasts abound: the glassine timbres running through the undulant “Forecast the Dawn” might evoke a New Age hilltop temple in the morning sun, while the befogged nocturnal “That Caress, Inverted” tends towards the dark drone environmental tracts of a BJ Nilsen or Jana Winderen, unfurling with dystopian siren tones. The closing “Tender Unison” seems to come back full circle with a purer sound, free from the metallic and percussive clangour of before, only soft pops and whistles punctuating the floating ambient lull.
Overall, Fable finds the two’s strengths—differing but complementary—fused. Tempered field recordings and instrumental detritus (Vitiello) meet peculiar modular tweaks and harmonized electronic efflatus (English) to create a collage commingling a widely sourced tonal palette, retaining integrality for all its diversity. While at times particular elements come into identifiable focus, it registers as a series of richly detailed electro-acoustic tableaux that form a ceaselessly metamorphizing whole, re-affirming their soundsmithery.