England - Full Moon 139 - 01/22/08
If you consider the recent slew of releases from the likes of Gareth Hardwick, Adam W Flynn and Chris Herbert and add the work of mwvm to the equation, the UK finally seems to be gathering an ambient scene together that could rival that of the US. British ambient sounds have, for far too long, lived in the shadows of acts like Eluvium, Stars of the Lid and other artists within the Kranky collective.
Rotations is the debut full-length from MWVM, a project bearing the name of Durham based guitar experimentalist Michael Walton. Recording ten movements in a self-induced, solitary environment, Walton's music comes across like cavernous, monolithic noise, powerful yet inherently graceful. Timeless melodies wash
across degraded industrial ambiance, pointing towards influences such as Labradford's seminal Prazision LP and Wolfgang Voigt's grand, lulling passages under his GAS moniker.
Tracks like "Context Where?" use a maze of guitar manipulations and sound imperfections. Progressing organically, the subtle chord shifts represent the sounds of a slow-motion orchestra, evolving sounds move through emotions of sorrow, optimism, hope and contemplation.
Beyond the intrusion of rhythm and percussion and all the better for it, Walton builds gargantuan waves of wall rattling sound, like Alexander Tucker's loop experiments only without the hypnotic vocals. Amidst this beatless bliss of knot-like textures and slow arpeggios, the listener will gradually succumb to each
passage's gravity. The underlying aggression and bubbling tension ensuring the paths chosen by Walton are never predictable.
A number of tracks ("Negative Pole", "It's Easy to Be Miserable", "Celestial Motion") are shrouded in transparent industrial haze. The layers of drones and swell of guitar effects create the swirling, dark fog of a distant ghostly planet. "Celestial Motion", as the title may suggest, develops from such darker
terrains, accumulating sounds that resemble waves of Gregorian chanting.
Outwith such cold and sterile climates, MWVM also constructs warm ambient/drone pieces, from the hopeful, angelic strains of "Never Constant" to the Marsen Jules-like "Sleepy Crayfish". But it is the epic "Oratory Clout" that truly defines Walton's style. Like an extreme winter blizzard, the 12 minute long "...Clout"
at first evokes images of vast, ice-covered tundra's.
These cold and infecting sentiments soon begin to subside with the introduction of an optimistic guitar chord progression. Combining with filters of sound and field recordings of buried voices, mwvm creates an impression of a weather-beaten traveler battling, in his journey, against the extreme elements. The guitar
purposefully plays against the violent force of the evolving arctic haze.
It may be subtle and require a degree of endurance from the listener, but ultimately Rotations rewards such patience. mwvm has created a body of work that is beautiful, strange and haunting.
Copyright © 2008 Michael Henaghan