Cyclic Defrost review of Residual
The second release from the Parenthesis Records label has been an absolute delight to immerse myself in throughout the reviewing process. Falling into an utterly genre-less wormhole equidistant from Jazz, Ambient, Experimental, Modern Classical and ethnographic-style recordings from South East Asia, Residual reaches into that sacred space inhabited by Ur-Drone masterworks, hypnotic ECM-style delicacies and the more subdued, jazzy end of the Rune Grammofon back catalogue.
The two virtuoso musicians are both part of the larger Melburnian ensemble, Way Out West, which has been active over the last ten years. Peter Knight's multiple collaborations, solo works and interests would need a massive flow chart to make sense of. Anh Nguyen's Vietnamese heritage (continuing on a family tradition, learning the 16-string dan tranh and the single string dan bau from his grandfather) and interest in jazz guitar provide a potent admixture of custom and experimentation. Especially heartening in this software-driven era is the statement contained in the liner notes;
"All the raw sounds in this recording were made using fingers, our breath, and our instruments, except for the sound that opens 'Minky Star', which was created using a software instrument."
Opening track 'Residual' draws slowly into being with hanging, spacious drones and pulsating detuned-sounding strings. There's an abundance of masterful atmospherics, residing somewhere in the vicinity of Phil Niblock, Max Richter and the Folkways label; the organic provenance of the instrumentation allows a potent humanity to resonate throughout the whole album. Travelling's exotic strings imbue the music with an otherworldly feel that is only heightened by the repetition, minimalism, micro-tonalities and subtle processing. There are shades of my favourite Rune Grammofon/ ECM trumpeter Arve Henriksen on â€˜Minky Starâ€™; you can picture the emotion and concentration of Peter Knight as he stretches the brass lexicon in new directions. Mournful backwards-sounding waves and microscopic percussive splutters pop & flutter, as time stands still. The Reichian pulses of 'Phase Pedal' drift and swell, as Nguyen's guitar cries and hums, heavy with potential energy. With a building intensity, the piece moves into a new sonic terrain of reverberant landscapes and Aeolian strings; equal parts Modern Classical and Post-Rock. 'Autumn Music' is a perfect resolution to the proceeding journey, as Nguyen's guitar harmonics and Knight's subtle playing are perfectly suited to a meditative reverie on a rock in a denuding temperate forest. With the ferocity of a sudden gust, a maelstrom of backwards-sounding processing animates this ode to in-between spaces.
Residual is strong second release for the fledgling Parenthesis label, which itself spans continents; label founder Alexis Courtin's musical passion, initiated in his native Belgium has been stretched in new directions since relocating to the sunny shores of the Indian Ocean. Oftentimes the best labels are those that develop spontaneously and grow with the interests and passions of an engaged musical auteur, Residual develops the dialogue started on the label's debut release, Masonik's The Vedantic Chapter, and gently pushes it into new territories.