zakè ~ Lapis / David Pedrick ~ Kernow
Написано ELF Radio (Team)на 18.01.2024
In a fast-paced world, cold weather can be a useful cue to slow down. Ambient music offers precious respite, whether we stay home in the warm or watch the steam rising from a crowded street. I relistened to today’s albums on a freezing bus, the pavements frosty and the sun still rising. Neither is a card-carrying winter album (one of them is autumnal!) – but the mood was just right. These albums belong to a subset of ambient music with no sudden movements, where an instant is held and extended. Wrap up warm and be subsumed by the moment.
Founder of Past Inside the Present, prolific collaborator, and sizable solo performer, zakè is a force in the contemporary ambient scene. Released by Quiet Details, Lapis prioritises crisp, glacially moving tones – cold yet comforting, like the other side of your pillow. Using keys, synth, tape, and field recording, zakè pursues the logic of the loop, which progresses indiscernibly by repetition and gradual reshaping. The album opens with its longest track, “vow”, offering a twelve-minute promise in a vast circle of trust. Each iteration of looped sound has its own rise and fall, its own counterpoints of tone and texture. A relentless procession of micro-drama washes over us.
The remaining four tracks average nine minutes in length. Each offers an illusion of stillness, with the surface appearing consistent but hiding a slow-motion tussle between elemental forces. Tones of varying duration phase-shift across each other. Calm surf or static is cut across by unsettling pitches of urgency. The fissures in the everyday are smoothed into stable notes. Like the blocks of adjacent hues in a Mark Rothko painting, these pieces of music offer spaces for feeling: tonal abstractions waiting for our gradual immersion and response.
Two tracks (“origin”, “guide”) foreground imperfection in the pop and crackle of analogue artefacts. Reminding us of its materiality makes sound more real, as a grainy photo makes a memory tangible. These are the most reassuring tracks. Tones in their contended swelling seem to call out in warm support of each other. Warm rays of sun return, a spattering of light and then a bright expanse. This may be icy music, but it guarantees a defrosting around the corner. The final piece (“home”) builds speedily to a crescendo with sonic colours of string and pipe. Holding this final space for nine minutes, the album not only finds its way home, but takes time to dwell with us. We breathe a small word of gratitude, being let in from the cold.
David Pedrick is a musician who monitors the turn of the seasons, having released a soundscape for each of them between 2022 and 2023. Whilst his seasonal compositions have a meditative power, Kernow marks a step forward in evocative sound design. A guitarist and composer, Pedrick’s discography includes abstract works alongside classical, folk, jazz, and commercial music. Kernow has a new emphasis on environmental sounds and drawn-out textures, whilst recognisable guitar notes retreat far into the background. This album marks the maturing of an ambient style which we hope to hear more of.
Evoking the English autumn of its conception, Kernow qualifies as cold weather music. We find icy tones over a frosty crunch of undergrowth. “Pendeen” has the sustained rattle and rustle of source recordings. This is a restless season, unsure whether to thaw or freeze. With the Cornish name for Cornwall as its title, Kernow is heavily invested in evocations of place. Ranging between four to six minutes, its eight tracks don’t rely on narrative progression. They invoke an experience of place and hold it within view. Within the opening track, the field recording cliches of birdsong and water are present. However, Pedrick balances them against clear tones set in a tidal movement. Patient sounds rise into waves, then fall softly back into the clear body of water.
Given the coastal splendour of Cornwall, it is fitting that we encounter water and birdsong throughout. Organic instrumentation rocks back and forth on “Porthleven”, harmonising with the environmental soundscape like a bobbing vessel. “Sennen” features warmly sustained tones that well up and evaporate, rockpools lifted skyward by sparse rays of synth. “Newlyn” offers darkly rippling pools, with synths gurgling underwater. Gull calls drop through the surface like smooth pebbles. As a native of south Devon, I’ve spent many a summertime in Cornwall. But Pedrick’s Cornwall carries the eerie melancholy of a tourist destination at the off-peak end of the year. For me, his track names bring back memories of peering into the road atlas in the back of a car, marvelling at the mysterious names of Cornish settlements.
The highlight of this album, “Penzance” opens and closes with the lightest toll of church bells, demarcating a sacred occasion. Choral tones and stretched sounds give a spectral presence, whilst a background of static reminds us of the recording observer in the graveyard. The album begins to stare out to a distant vastness. The final track performs a beautiful vanishing act amid a vista of choppy loops and celestial tones in the vocal range: two azure regions resting against each other so closely, a defined horizon ceases to exist. (Samuel Rogers)
Ambient music and seasonal soundscapes offer a calming refuge in a fast-paced world, evoking warmth and melancholy in cold weather.