‘But What A Gate!’ – The Reviews Are InPosted: November 25, 2014
Crumbs, has it really been over a month since I last wrote anything on these pages? Well, it’s certainly not for the want of anything to write about. The fact is it’s been a whirlwind of activity round these parts of late – mostly pertaining to the launch of the new Howlround album Torridon Gate on A Year In The Country and our efforts to promote it. Thankfully it would appear such efforts are starting to pay off – each of the four limited edition CD packages (Day, Night, Dawn, Dusk) is selling fast and the positive reviews have been flying in from all over the blogosphere. Most excitingly of all, I’ve just received word that The British Library’s Sound Archive have added a copy to their permanent collection. If that isn’t a compliment, then I truly do not know what a compliment is.
In a fit of characteristic modesty, I’ve included extracts from some of my favourite reviews below, thus achieving the twin objectives of blowing my own trumpet and buffing up my word count. They have been slightly abridged to avoid complete overkill, but feel free to click on the links and read the original post in full:
23 minutes of spectral splendour made entirely out of sounds produced from a garden gate! …[A]n amazing achievement, sort of like the missing link between Ekoplekz and On Land, or Stahlmusik gaseously expanded into Kosmische Musik.
Torridon Gate is a different beast, essentially a manipulated field recording of a garden gate. But what a gate! […] The Torridon Gate is a sonic symbol of a time and place, preserved by Howlround as a reminder not only of durable things, but of durable memories. Few would recognize this as a field recording; it comes across as an experimental electronic piece, haunted by echo and hum. The expected creaks are present, yet in these recordings, one can also hear ghosts. […] If one’s gate sounded like this, would one venture outside to close it? Perhaps not. But one’s gate does sound like this; we’re simply unable to hear it. This is the whole point of [A Year In The Country’s] Artifacts Shop: to uncover what is veiled, even if it remains beyond our comprehension.
[B]eautifully different, utterly chillingly and curiously affecting. …[T]here is something […] at play here; a desire to manipulate sound, twist it into shapes that emote, that frighten, entrance and ultimately affect the listener on a deep, instinctive, physical and emotional level.
“Torridon Gate”s single full length track veers from the most distant and echoed of cosmic drones to unearthly screeches to an all-out cacophony of metal wails and then back again. The artists’ measure of composition is faultless; there are peaks and swells in this sound as well as motifs, lulls and spaces within the spaces. This is a suite of sorts and is expertly paced. […] Recognisable as the source material only occasionally, mostly the sounds that emerge here are cold, spectral and disquieting but thrillingly so. It speaks of the worlds that are hidden in the everyday, the shadows and sounds we don’t see or hear but are there nonetheless, a world within a world. […] Stripped of the use of any studio trickery this is a major achievement in a musique concrete and tape collage lineage that includes Delia Derbyshire, Stockhausen and John Cage. Fans of hauntological artists such as Pye Corner Audio or The Caretaker will also definitely want to listen closely.
Whilst the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop are often (justifiably) name-checked in relation to Howlround, Torridon Gate’s obvious predecessor is Pierre Henry’s Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir (1963). Maurice Béjart created a ballet based on it. […] Howlround’s recording succeeds by obfuscating the source, rendering the ‘real’ unreal and transforming the ordinary into an other-worldly phenomenon. The simple metal gate becomes a portal to…the spirit world of inanimate objects? Or can we hear the ghosts of all those who have passed through ‘the gate’ to life beyond this one we know? The gate as metaphor…if you like. Wherever your imagination takes you, Torridon Gate is an urban source response to the dark moors and haunted woods mythology of modern folklorist music-makers. In that sense, it is more ‘homely’, but the resulting sounds take you very far away indeed.
Torridon Gate will transport you – from Jupiter’s Moons to the Mines Of Moria. You might be led to believe that the Gate is an extraterrestrial artifact to fold space and time, but in fact, it’s just an ordinary garden gate.
All false modesty aside, I’d like to extend a huge thanks to all of our reviewers, listeners and supporters both mentioned above and elsewhere. It’s been so amazing to hear from people who ‘get’ what the album is about and have felt moved to share it with their own friends and followers. And I certainly never dared to dream that I would hear my work being compared to the likes of Delia, Brian and Pierre. What an honour!
Of course the spirit of full disclosure and the desire to obtain a balanced perspective and avoid accusations of bias naturally commands me to print the negative reviews as well. Thankfully, this has so far been limited to a single entry’ in the comments section underneath an otherwise positive notice on Mark Valentine’s Wormwoodiana blog, which I’m repeating here verbatim:
‘Evidently someone has time and money on his hands….’ Anon.
In fairness, I suppose this is a halfway accurate observation. One the one hand, releasing obscure, experimental musique concrete in a number of handmade limited editions is such an obvious path to fabulous wealth that I’m constantly surprised more people aren’t cashing in and releasing albums of their own street furniture. But TIME?! Sorry, Anon, but I must pull you up on this. There is very little time currently available on my hands or anywhere else for that matter. These days I barely even get a moment to update this website!