Born in an underground car park with the Atlantic ocean’s waves breaking against the edge of a continent scant metres away, Abandon Reason Records’ first release is a compilation of tracks performed and recorded deep under the earth’s surface. There’s a small, tight-knit group of sonic adventurers involved and many of them double (or triple) job over the course of nearly two hours. The release itself comes as a download attached to one of 100 unique A3 prints. Something for your wall. As far as opening statements go, it’s a deeply ambitious one from the Galway-based label.
The atmosphere feels intimate yet strange, the dank acoustic of the subterranean concrete chamber often at odds with the personal, emotional performances. There is a tension and a darkness that never quite disappears, whether Brigid Power Ryce‘s voice is creaking and flexing over mournful accordion or Gavin Prior is banging sheets of metal off each other. There is a sacred, hushed nature to everything, a feeling that the shadow is pushing in from the outside and each song is an opportunity to light up the room for a few minutes.
The constant thread is not genre or instrument, but mood. Relatively “normal” songs, based on traditional folk instruments and warped melodies, sit easily side-by-side with extended ambient tonal pieces, tied together in their twilight despondency. There are highlights, Áine O’Dwyer‘s ‘Albion Awake’ combines classically-styled, fleet-footed vocals with dark, droning harp-work to magical effect. Darugaries‘ ‘Boku No Kioku’ is beautifully sparse, the string and horn arrangements complementing the simple rhythm of the guitar. The distant vocals are heart-warming in their plainness, with a distinctly Japanese sense of sincerity and minimalism in their tone. The sound of wind blowing outside comes through near the end and glass tinkles in the background. Again the tension of classic beauty and surreal strangeness pays off in a wonderful way.
The release is a strange, ungainly one, as it should be. It could be shorter, it could sound better, it could have been sequenced differently. None of this feels important though. The palpable sense of hearing something coalescing from the ether, a set of musicians discovering and sharing a distinct sensibility, is exciting. Many of the musicians have been around for a while now, playing in each others bands and supporting each other. If it continues in this vein, Abandon Reason could come to provide a deeply useful centre-point for this disparate group, and its potential audience. As it is, I’m In The Abyss is a great entry point.