““Handles”, Drexler’s debut album, is inspired by new beginnings and ideas of rebirth. The music infuses intimate chamber strings with tender piano tones, ambient synth, minimal percussion and folky guitars. He adds to this instrumentation by manipulating sound using production techniques, delays, and experimenting with acoustic spaces. The album also incorporates field recordings from his travels across the globe. These include the gentle flickering sounds from Lake Kawaguchi in Japan, native birds and burning embers from a countryside campfire in NSW, Australia, and the rattling hum of a London tube.
Recorded in small spaces—predominantly in his studio in North West London–Drexler’s work focuses on recording granular sonic details, like the hair of the violin bow slowly draped across the bridge, the hammers of the piano hitting the felt above the strings, the textures of shimmering electric guitars or the sounds of a fire engine passing in the distance.”
“Handles” is the second release I have heard from Rhodium Publishing, following BP Moore’s “Komorebi” album and the most noticeable feature of the music that comes to mind is it’s vibrancy. For a boutique label to have such a captivating sound to their releases it sets the tone for the seriousness of their endeavours. You get the impression that they have big plans and want to set the scene by having works that sound rich, with a lot of depth and a clarity which allows all the instruments within each piece to flourish.
Their second full length release comes from Australian artist and London resident, Drexler. Preceded by the singles “Blossom” and “Ghosts Have Arrived”, “Handles” seeks to capture the various sounds and influences of Adrian Leung aka Drexler. With a background in music that stretches back to the age of five, Leung, a multi instrumentalist with a penchant for collecting instruments from around the world and incorporating them into his music, whether or not if he has mastered them. “Handles” was recorded partially in a home setting with Leung being responsible for the Piano, Synth, Viola, Percussion and Vocal, with Sonja Schebeck on Violin, Alistair Sung on Cello, Vivien Conacher and Sam McNeill on Vocals.
The music of “Handles” is largely within the, but not restricted to, the Modern Classical sphere. A piece like “Between The Moon and The Deep Blue Sea” includes percussion and sounds at times folky and at others as part of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and “Ivory Tape” mixes in Ambient and IDM motifs, while “Wollondilly Nights” nights blends in field recordings. These various sounds and styles that Leung introduces into his pieces add extra pieces to the puzzle and highlight his background in creating music for film and TV. The previous single “Ghosts Have Arrived” is probably the most traditional Modern Classical piece on the album was conceived when Leung was in a Sydney based Folk Rock band and he took it with him and played it with a band when he moved to Beijing. I imagine that over the course of time it has mutated somewhat, especially with the various styles it has been played through in the past. The version on this album is quite melancholic and emotional. Leung states that “it’s really a piano and cello duet accompanied by subtle textures—which gives the listener plenty of space to hear every note. I made a conscious choice to record it really free and perform it with as much expression as possible.” The track is a perfect example of when things are stripped back they can be as beautiful as a large scale orchestration.
You can detect Leung’s folk background (and his love for Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago”) on pieces like the opening track “Lightness”. I am sort of reminded by Message To Bears by this piece, which is a good thing. “Ashes” is another standout track, actually scrap that, the whole album is a standout. The vocals that swirl around as a haunting choir and strings that cascade about make for an engaging listen which takes the music into operatic areas and highlights that vibrancy that I mentioned at the opening of the review making for a particularly epic piece. Guitar becomes the focal point on the opening single “Blossoms” with the music moving through styles like Modern Classical, Ambience and slightly in a New Age direction because of the tone and light of the guitar.
With “Handles” both Drexler and Rhodium Publishing should find themselves more attention as the album is one which doesn’t let down in it’s quality. The material is strongly consistent while still having it’s own personality. With a running time of around thirty one minutes it doesn’t over stay it’s welcome, instead it encourage you to press repeat. “Handles” is available on CD and Digital and is very much recommended.