Slaapwel wake from their hibernation (puns out-of-the-way in the beginning) with their first release since Gareth Davis “Filament” album of June 2016 with “Periphery” by Danny Clay which is due out on July 30. For Eilean Rec’s release “An Unintended Place” Slaapwel label curator Stijn Hüwels and Danny Clay collaborated together. This collaboration opened up the dialogue for Clay to release an album on Slaapwel and the four track album “Periphery”, is the result.
“”Periphery” consists of 4 realizations of the same score performed with flute (played by Sasha Launer), cello (Crystal Pascucci), piano (Katy Luo) and Clay on tones. It takes a simple tune Clay heard at his grandparents church as a child, and unravels it leaving the remnants to drift among each other and the original to loom as a kind of vague feeling at the edge of the senses. In other words, a perfect companion to fall asleep with. The album was recorded over the course of a few months in 2015, late at night in a small church in a quiet neighborhood of San Francisco. Although technically a series of instrumental trios (flute, cello and piano), the three musicians played in the space on different nights, making each of the recorded versions in itself a composite of the three different performances”
“Periphery 1” wispy tones filter through like passing air with piano, cello and flute coming through. There is a lot of space between instruments that allows the tones to move around while the instruments come together in equal measurements. If you were none the wiser on how it was recorded, you would possibly be looking at improv style or possibly by hand gestures or conducting. The flute has a depth that adds to the tones but gives it a deeper sound. The piano and cello are used more sparingly and are usually paired together, or cutting across each other. The notes reference a tune that Clay heard when he was much younger and while I can’t put a finger on it, you can feel some sort of narrative unfold, like a journey through unfamiliar terrain. The instruments chosen all have strong emotional qualities with the low cello notes naturally sounding melancholic, the piano has a general fragility to it and the flute feels like a torch singer.
“Periphery 2” stark piano and flute emerge before being joined by the long bows of cello and lastly, the ambient tones. The sound pallet is the same as “Periphery 1”, but there feels to me, more of a disconnect in this piece. Initially reading the notes I was thinking it would sound like a classical piece that is woven together with the tones enveloping it, but its more about creating mood, texture and layers of sound. You would consider this as a soundtrack to an avant-garde dance piece such is the feel of the way that the instruments interact and inhabit their own space within the music.
“Periphery 3” stark piano, cello and tones emerge before flute comes in and vibrates over the instruments in tandem with the tones. Its noticeable the way that Clay has changed each tracks configuration as it slightly alters the feel of the track, especially when the tones make their presence known as they tend to fill in the margins between the notes. With the cello making more of a known presence and the tones of the piano and the length of the notes of the flute, the track feels more in the modern classical vein than the others. It sounds to me that Clay has arranged the instruments to interact more with each other when he has been constructing the piece, but retaining their individual feel.
“Periphery 4” a single piano stab, long cello line, tones and flute open the final and epic track. I feel as the album has gone on the tighter the composition has gotten. The cello and flute play off each other, while the piano (especially) and tones and more of a minimal presence in the pieces construction. The sound the trio makes are pensive with the looser free form approach a distant past, which draws the listener in more and focuses the attention to the sounds created. You could imagine just how much more constructed the piece would get if it extended to “Periphery 5” and “Periphery 6”.
Danny Clay is nor your typical Ambient/Drone composer. He, in my humble opinion, is more interested in concepts such as sound, time and place with an examination of sounds and their construction being front and center in his work. As his bio states “His work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration and the sheer jot of making things”. Of his releases that I am familiar with, there is a feeling of an idea, sound sources and then working with these sounds to then create his pieces, which I think that his joy in music is, is the piecing together of elements to weave a sonic fabric. Slaapwel specializes in music to fall asleep to, while I am not sure that you would fall asleep easily to this release as you engage with it, the tones that Clay adds to the pieces are very relaxing indeed.
You can buy “Periphery” from July 30th on limited CD (250 copies) or Digital here.