Bill Seaman returns to the fictitious island of Eilean with “Erasures and Displacements” (Eilean 78) his first since 2015’s “f(noir)” (Eilean 33) and is joined by Owen Sidney Richardson on Contrabass and Electric Bass Library, Craig Tattersall with Synth Bass Library, Robert Ellis-Geiger on Trumpet, Cornet and Flugelhorn Library, and Jonas Braasch with Horn Library for the track “The Sea’s Enfolded Signatures”. Seaman who has released on the Cotton Goods label and collaborated with Craig Tattersall on The Humble Bee & Players and The Seaman and the Tattered Sail could be, as hinted in the press release a musical librarian than a musician solely.
“I often work by making libraries or asking people to contribute a library. With the contributed library I often give the players simple verbal instructions, or sing notes I am interested in including. With the piano, I sit down and do a series of improvisations. I then go though these and edit my favorite parts, building a series of fragment libraries, some with little or no abstraction, some greatly abstracted with Ableton Live. To make the library I basically “erase” most of the recording, and “displace” it by building up a new set of musical relations in Live (hence the title of the album) [although there are many readings to these two terms]. I compose in a very sculptural manner with Ableton, dragging things in from the libraries and trying things out often exploring chance related juxtapositions. I build up structures, cut/copy/paste complex layered sections, erase sections that are not working, loop things, and slowly construct a track going though many iterations. I often later cut away at the built up tracks, and edit the piece down, further articulating a structure. I often finish with having between 30 and 50 tracks. In the final set of passes I fully articulate the psychoacoustic space, working with panning, eq, distortion, abstraction, and reverb. I further edit and structure the parts that begin to “work”.”
“Erasures and Departures” is a double CD that clocks in just under 85 minutes over its 14 tracks. Expertly mastered by label boss Mathias Van Eecloo, the release is a lush piece of work which covers many genres and sold out it’s label stock of the limited (180 copies) in 3 days of pre-order availability.
“A Visual Record of Scratches Reflecting on time” features emotive piano playing, multi layered glitches, drones, microsounds samples, washes of sound and on some way has a slight feel of The Necks, I guess in Seaman’s piano playing and the use of space. Even there are a decent numbers of elements going on, they don’t cloud or pile over each other. The piano, drones and glitches compliment each other while having their own space.
“A Structured Removal, The Balance of the Pulse” follows on in a similar vein with the construction of the track. The multi layered glitches are the focus of that is piece with layers of sound underneath, such as drones, piano, percussive sounds. Sounds whirl and pan left to right and the emotive drone ends out the track. Due to Seaman’s editing and redefining process the drones could be from any of the libraries such as Synth Bass or Cornet. The standout feature of the track is that despite the various different elements the coalesce into one quite nicely.
“Collections of Relational Introspections” starts off highly edited with backward pieces of sound, glitches, drones, layered piano and the sounds of machines whirring and breaking down. The track is rhythmical, but not in the way that any loops or parts of it are repeated in such a way as to be predictable and timed.
“Altered Instruments, The Removal of Time” starts with sounds of decay. Chimes, Glitches and Drones contribute alongside mournful piano to a sound of things breaking down. Rhythmic loops with the complex highly edited music of unknown source (maybe Seaman himself would be the only one to identify specific sounds?) make for a post apocalyptic sound with some some sort of Eastern feel which reminds me of some of Dead Can Dance’s instrumental tracks.
“Entering the Library of Collapsed Moments” features metallic glitches, Distorted Cornet, Piano and despite its name doesn’t fall apart. There is a lot of space in this track which allows it to breathe and evolve slowly with each instrument unwinding clearly and pleasantly with not one element overpowering another.
“The Somber Space of a Word” has affected Cornet that phrases in and out, Piano and drones that are joined with an almost orchestral sound, possibly elbow guitar. Unlike the earlier glitch tracks this is the first with a filmic sound to it. The track has a sinister suspenseful edge to it with a feel of noir. Some of the sounds are punctuated with a percussive edge. The layering of drones and piano makes the track.
“Watching from Within The Library of Melancholy Gestures” sounds like a continuation of the previous track with some of the previous elements with what sounds, in sections, electric bass. The piano with elbow guitar driving on top of it, the hiss and the drones continue in the filmic vein. For someone who works with piano improvisations, they come across as well planned, but this could be the art of the editing.
“A Circulated Compendium of Machinic Thoughts” sees the decaying glitches return with a rhythmic clock like loop, sounds crawling over each other and fall apart. Sharp soaring drones cascade and screech while the machine breaks down.
“The Lie of the Perfect Empty Seat” sees low level wind noise accompany piano, before drones and multi layered orchestral like pieces come in, electronic pulses flitter in and out. The parts come in and out, just when you get a grip on the track it changes. The electronic pulses become semi percussive and leads the track out with drones and a final piano stab.
“Slow Motioning Through Scattered Reflections” sees the horn library come to the fore with piano and drones accompanying the horns (presumably the Flugelhorn) making for a mournful track. Layers of instruments come in an out and sections can be quite minimal , while others can be full of sound. Ebow darts in amongst piano stabs, while drones hover. The horns created almost vocal feel as if someone is singing and work well with both the piano and Ebow guitar.
“The Reflections Inherent To A Chosen Room” sees Cornet blow over a minimal beginning with low level hiss/glitch and piano while highly processed loops scatter about and field recordings fade in and out. This is one of the more experimental and improve like of the tracks on the album.
“The Machinic Exhale” begins with piano, drifting drones, glittering glitches, shimmering Ebow and has a somewhat beat less post rock theme to it. The elements work together smoothly and the track doesn’t wear out its welcome and could be enjoyably longer.
“The Sea’s Enfolded Signatures” harmonic drones starts off with field recordings, foreign vocal/speech sample, piano and glitches with Jonas Braach’s Horn Library being used and giving a haunting long lasting drone that curves around the other elements and also giving a counterpoint to the piano that punctuates the track.
“The Illusive Space of A Thought” begins with rattling glitches, cornet, mechanical sounding loops, field recordings, broken electronics, plaintive sound and panning scattershot sounds.
This album is not one that can be easily pigeonholed. Is it Ambient, Drone, Glitch, Experimental or Electroacoustic? It is all these things, but not all at the same time. With 14 tracks and 85 minutes there is alot to take in. Some tracks work better than others (“The Somber Space of a Word”) coming to mind as a highlight), but all are worth repeated listening to get all the layers, textures, nuances and effects.