Anonymity is an interesting concept. Within the underground Ambient scene it is used from time to time to strip back or clear any possible preconceived impressions about an artist or a piece of music that you are about to hear. Examples of its use have included the recent Glåsbird release, The “Unknown” series that is suspected of coming out of the Cotton Goods people, plus a history of masked artists.
“And We Are Passing Through Silently’ is the sublime first survey of reworks by cult synthesist, Abul Mogard .Rounding up divine renderings of songs by Aïsha Devi, Penelope Trappes (The Golden Filter) and nick nicely (heralded by luminaries of the US underground Ariel Pink & John Maus), the album culminates with Brian Eno’s collaboration with Irish avant-folk band Fovea Hex. Also included is Abul’s brand new rework of Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ starring vocals from Cinder (This Mortal Coil/Cindytalk) and Massimo Pupillo on bass (Zu/Thurston Moore/Stephen O’ Malley), exclusive to the 2LP, CD and digital release.“
I have to admit, that while I am familiar with the name and story of the artist, this is my first chance at hearing their works. That said, as it is a remix collection it changes the scope of things as you are taking a view at a piece of work that has been composed by someone else and then had the Mogard touch applied to it. With only one remix being under the ten minute mark, Mogard is intent in laying it all out, taking the time and stretching the pieces. With that I will keep in mind Boomkat’s description that Mogard “extracts the artist or band’s essence and diffuses it into his own, billowing soundscapes with a time-dilating, meditative and romantic appeal that’s long been at the core of his synthy magick”
“Aïsha Devi – O. M. A. (Abul Mogard Remix)” blends a nice mix of darkly ethereal ambience which is complimented by the breathy style vocals of Devi that filter in as if brought through with the breeze. The music has this lightly flowing feel where its has ebbs and flows, but is consistent and doesn’t fall into peaks or troughs. There is quite a drifting approach that naturally appeals given this blogs name , that evolves nicely from the darker territory of its beginning to its light ending. The “synth magik” that Boomkat refer to is present, but not obtrusive and adds an extra dimension to the track as you detect the layers of it and the change from proggy style synth to those with metallic – like touches. The piece manages a nice balance of tones, melody, darkness and light, with elements flickering in and out (what sounds like a saxophone or an electronic interpretation of one makes its presence).
“Penelope Trappes – Carry Me (Abul Mogard Remix)” if you are looking for a definition of drone, then look no further. A slow-moving glacial piece that marries darker synth drones and icy cold ones with ever the slightest hint of ambience infused somewhere in there. Spectres of vocals peak in through the mists of sound like distant recordings, while a multi layered drone that is packed with more sound that it is entitled to, floats like debris on top of water. The minimal nature of the piece might deter some listeners, but those that hang in for the ride are rewarded with the journey it takes us. Within the last four minutes the piece gets swamped by static electronics and it starts to grow both with intensity and also menace. The piece takes us to the darker territory hinted to in the opening remix and leaves us in a foreign soundscape all alone, isolated and unsure of where we are.
“Nick Nicely – London South (Abul Mogard Remix)” it feels like we have entered a cinematic soundscape with this remix.The tones and movements from the darkened synths straight away take us into a film of the mind. There is a claustrophobic and almost bleak feel to the track that feels like a sonic equivalent of depression. The way the synth lines are expanded upon and held gives this overwhelming feeling of despair. Again the vocals are distant, almost dream like and give the feeling of an inner monologue. The music is thick with a weight attached to the synth drones that emphasises the feel of the track. If there was a sonic equivalent to an impending rolling storm with the tiniest hint of obscured sun behind it, then it would be this track.
“Becoming Animal – The Sky Is Ever Falling (Abul Mogard Remix)” taking a different colour to the Mogard template, this track takes us somewhat into the light, before deceiving us. The template for the album continues with slow, thick, glacial walls of sound with the exception of a slight melodic touch woven into the tracks DNA. What I have noticed with the tracks of this release is that they can’t be given a single pass through to get an idea of what their contents are. Headphone listening is required as is minimal distractions and multiple listens, that way you can pick up on all the filigree that is sprinkled with the pieces. Gordon Sharp aka Cinder adds his falsetto style vocals, which unlike the previous tracks are very much front and centre and have a commanding presence.
“Fovea Hex – We Dream All The Dark Away (Abul Mogard Remix)” the mammoth almost twenty-one minute finale features the Irish Avant Folk band and Brian Eno takes us into a choral sound of church organ like drones. The vocals have a nice hint of accent and are as crystal clear as you can hope for. This particular track (and the previous one for that matter) makes me feel like we are listening to a track from a This mortal Coil album. As with most of the tracks on this album, there is a strong epic feel, which a track this length demands. Musically you get the feeling that we have turned the corner somewhat from the darker climate of the earlier tracks, but Mogard doesn’t let us off that easily by reminding us just where we have been and can easily return to. In between these parts the music takes a travelogue like detour into a folk come scene from a -play which adds to the epic nature of the piece.
When you think of remix collections you have a general idea of what you may be in for. Like I mentioned at the top I was not aware of Mogard’s own music, nor the original pieces that these remixes or reworkings are based off of sounded like, Because of this I may have a different take than those that are familiar withis his work, but this makes me take the pieces at face value, rather than as a thing to contrast and examine. For that I have seen Mogard as an artist intent on creating long works that are in no hurry to finish, during which they grow rather organically with much for the listener to investigate. They are also lush with an attention to detail and creating a form of suspense.
“And We Are Passing Through Silently” is available on the Houndstooth label on 2 LP/Cd and Digital.