On his Fourth album, the follow-up to “Branches Never Remember”, on the Preserved Sound label (the home to all of his albums), Adrian Lane uses 100-year-old cylinder recordings as the starting point for new compositions – chopping them up, reordering them and playing along to build up a series of completely new compositions.
As Lane says “I’ve always liked the idea of collage and often include this in my visual art, so I wanted to do something that incorporated this approach in my music.”
Utilizing a similar construction method to that of The Caretaker, Lane “uses the cylinder recordings to build up each piece on Playing With Ghosts so that it bears little resemblance to the original. If there is any kind of concept to the album it probably centres around the way sound can change over time and as well as people’s perception of the sound. These recordings have obviously deteriorated a lot over the 100 or so years that they have existed, and this has brought out new qualities.”
On the album Lane is joined by Bryan Styles on Clarinet, Mick Gawthorp on Flute and Saxophone, Rei Sugawara and Debbie Lane on Voices, while Adrian Lane uses Piano, Samples, Glockenspiel and Laptop.
“Another Spell than Beauty’s” static and distant sounding piano ring in the track with slow-paced playing that is controlled, gentle and fluent with a healthy dose of mournfulness. Clarinet which sounds like a bed of drones compliments the piano but also gives the piece the nostalgic feeling that the static like crackles throughout the track alludes to. The tone changes once the clarinet comes into play with less a feeling of decay than at the start of the piece and more a hint of haze.
“Playing with Ghosts” a record needle drop with a haunting loop, piano and clarinet combine to form the intro to the track which drops out leaving a bouncy hopeful piano melody before a quick backwards section sees the intro return. After this section both the first two sections join together before dropping out to just the piano before another backwards section introduces static to the mist for a brief part before the intro returns and the music drifts off into the silence. The use of the backwards sections helps transition the piece and brings the listener’s attention to focus.
“Abandoned Equations” degrading crackles meets soaring pianos with a percussive edge. The piano sounds recorded in an abandoned room with its distant edge which gives it a haunted ambience. The repetitive nature of the piece givers it a meditative overview rather than being monotonous.
“Of the Spheres” stark piano paired with the haunting quality of the clarinet which gives it a smoky jazz feel and fits in well with the nostalgic motif. The lines of both the piano and clarinet are long and flowing, intertwining each other. The snippets of voice from Rei Sugawara are very subtle and serve as a bridge between sections.
“A Rainy Beginning” distant rolling field recordings with what sounds like particularly raw piano and a less haunting clarinet give this track a different feel to the previous tracks despite the familiar instrumentation. There is a romantic feel that balances the melancholy, the hauntingness and the starkness with a small dose of hope.
“Retreat Half_Hidden” the clarinet on this particular track has the feel of saxophone in its bluesy playing alongside the minimalist piano and the various sound samples that adorns the track. Samples of fractured electronics crisp in nature give a rustic feel to the track and add an extra dimension to it. While the piano remains the central focus, the layering and flowing clarinet, for me is the focal point.
“Count the Tides” looped recordings of the cylinder recordings that sound manipulated and cut up, float in and out with additional static giving it a bass like bed. Melodious piano fills the next section before electronics signal the loops and joining saxophone brings a different edge to the track. Electronics, drones, chimes enter the sound mix with an increase in the speed of the piano leading the track to its conclusion.
“Conversing in Turn” sees Flute enter the sound palate for the first time which pairs nicely along side the piano. The style of playing is very similar to that of the clarinet, but naturally gives it that breathy ambient touch to the track. In fact this is the first track that leans more in the ambient direction because of the flute and the electronics that are glacial and environment related that creep up towards the end of the track. There is very much a feeling of Déjà vu with this track.
“Father & Son” a collaborative piece between Lane and his seven-year old son Nicholas Lane sees snatches of melody that lie at the outer skirts of the piece alongside a strident piano playing that has intention and comes across as the player is making a strong statement with the force in which they are playing. The snatches of backwards loops glitch in and out adding further texture to a mostly piano dominated piece. The long reverberations also give the piece depth. There is a section were the playing slows down in intention and focuses more on melody and mood which helps join the first and last sections.
“Andante” refers to moderately slow tempo which is not instantly noticeable at the start of the track with the dust soaked ancient looped melodies that fade out like ripples in a pond to be then joined by slow piano. The loops drop out and Clarinet and the introduction of Debbie Lane’s voice (this time more prominent in the mix than Sugawara’s was) take centre place. The clarinet shares a quality with the loops that when they return they are paired perfectly. Muted clarinet alongside soft glitchy rhythms fade out the track.
“To Other Coasts” Flute and Saxophone join alongside Lane’s piano for the opening section. Saxophone gives it the Drone, Flute the breathy ambience and Piano the earthy touch. Another layer to this is the almost imperceptible voice which adds an ambient edge alongside the flute.
“A Nip in the Air” space is explores in this piano based track with minimal accompaniment with exception of some sound sources and a layer of ambient flowing drones with a slight buzz to them as well as chime sounds. It’s almost like the windows have been opened to let the natural ambience in.
“Invisible Near the Rain” Clarinet, long ambience, static and a soundtrack-esque piano line form the basis of this track. The Clarinet’s long drones bring out a layer of melancholy that is opposing the fresh piano feel. The detritus of the cylinder recordings adds a layer of grittiness that compliments the lines of the clarinet which fuels the nostalgia of the piece.
“Make or Mars” smoky noir jazz-like Clarinet briefly sets the tone for this track which follows the theme with the murder-mystery sounding piano keys that are joined by micro samples of little orbiting sounds echoing out into space. The Clarinet returns to emphasize the noir mood giving a sepia appearance to the track which ends with the oscillating sounds.
“Even the Forest” sees the electronic micro samples combine well with the subtle clarinet. The miniature glitches being the tiny sections of cylinder recordings that are mixed in with piano and longer looped sections of cylinder recordings the effective use of the way things are looped and repeated gives it a childlike rhyme feel.
“Amid Tall Dangers” following on the jazz noir feel of the previous track this combines with the loops become an orchestral sounding track. The piano is minimalist , but effective and follows the beat of the music bringing you back to centre. The way the cylinder recordings cut and loop add extra dimension to the music than simply being a base for the music to join.
Lane’s feel for the album was the combination of the past and the present. “The age of the recordings gives a haunting quality to the music it contains, partly because of the fact that it’s old, but it would have seemed like cutting edge sound for the people who recorded it onto cylinders at the time. I liked the idea of combining this with modern technology and more traditional instrumentation – and what’s interesting is that my upright piano used on the album was built around the same time these cylinder recordings were originally produced.”
To say he has achieved something jaw dropping is an understatement. Any concern you have of it being derivative of The Caretaker are easily forgotten.A special mention should go to his collaborators especially Bryan Styles’ Clarinet, which helps formulate many of the albums tracks. This album was released on August 18 in an edition of 150 copies, I urge you to check it out.