Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: Preslav Literary School - La Réflexion Du Tir (Full of Nothing, 2011)

Preslav Literary School is the artistic pseudonym of UK’s Adam Thomas, who specialized in making sprawling and boundless ambient music with the usage of cassettes, which he manipulates and processes to the point where the original source of sound is almost unrecognizable and instead replaced with sometimes haunting, often dreamy wall of sound which is meant to completely envelope the listener. La Reflexion Du Tir, released on Russian up-and-coming label Full of Nothing, collects two of those lengthy collages, giving us one of the most soothing tapes of the year.
I always like to pay attention to the relation between the album’s artwork and the music contained on the cassette, the vinyl or the CD. La Reflection Du Tir does the job: the front cover show the cutaway of a gothic cathedral, including the spaces right below the roof. Preslav Literary School’s music is a bit like exploring the space right under the roof of an old cathedral: it’s dark, mysterious and somewhat “abandoned”, in a way that it occupies an area very few dare to explore, just like very few would dare to explore the forgotten space between the nave and the church roof.
Just like many abstract/experimental cassette releases, La Reflexion Du Tir has two tracks which occupy the entire sides of the cassette. Side A’s “Francis Servain Mirkovic” begins with warped loops of what appears to be faint remnants of what once could be a rock tape – the snippets of electric guitar soon dissolve into a massive, heavenly drone which could only be compared to the side A of Bee Mask’s Hyperborean Trenchtown, minus the bells. This is ambient at its most minimal, changing texture at a glacial pace, with the listener barely noticing the shifts in real time. Skip the tape or the mp3 a few times – one can notice the changes. Listen to it in real time – no way. Like the tapes erased and smoothened in the process of creating new tracks, the music listens like a record of memories erased in transformed to make way for new memories.
Side B’s track, entitled “Yvan Deroy”, follows the similar path, but somehow achieves at being even more minimal and haunting, reaching almost dark ambient areas with smeared, distant moans (or at least synthesizer/processed tape that sounds like moaning) and deep bass rumble, which occasionally dies away to give way for more soothing, calmer ambience. The whole track is a constant struggle between the relaxation and meditation and an unsettling, pulsing soundscape, changing places at a glacial place and falling into each other without much notice – like on side A, it takes a few minutes to notice that the deep bass rumble is finally gone.
Or maybe it’s never really gone? The premise of Preslav Literary School’s music is precisely this: distorting the lines between the haunting and the beatific, confusing the listener about the nature of his music, the intentions behind the lengthy sounds contained within the cassette, the deconstruction of the line between the benevolent and the malevolent. Preslav Literary School makes music to get lost in, and he wants the listener to get lost in both universes at once; in an almost fetishistic way he wants the listener to be blissful about his sonic discomfort. Brilliant.

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