Respectively credited with “saxophone feedback and processing” and “field recordings and amplified devices”, both Graham Halliwell and Lee Patterson are unyielding assemblers of sonic tinctures who seem to have chosen a reasonably anonymous profile – as opposed to unnecessary prominence – by letting the sounds do the talking. They’ve been involved in a fair share of consistently enthralling albums in recent times, Terrain being no exception: a profound, deceptively simple proposal whose mystifying tones are the result of numerous layers of crucial elements that, in their unfussiness, reveal a longing for those intangibles that push a scientist way beyond a process of pure analysis. Halliwell and Patterson look for the elusive magic of linearity, subtending a whole world of hidden significances.
In keeping with the above premise the record itself is pretty difficult to evaluate, a work which – as soon as the CD begins to spin and the reviewer’s mental format is worn – gradually shatters convictions, each session forcing a reassessment of the message and, especially, the attempt to find decrypting tools for something that, on the contrary, appears so manifest at first. What could be said in terms of sheer description is that the research is conducted around the extremities of various aural surfaces in a rather fluid geometry: the contrast between pulsing oscillations and straight electronic stripes, the opposition of ultra-bass and over-acute emissions, the absolute homogeneity resulting from the superimposition of just traceable locations and masterfully handled feedback.
In the third of the four movements – which this writer finds impressively proportional to his own vibration/consciousness quotient – the inexplicable radiance born from different planes of quivering reverberation, in turn causing a marvellous alternance of motionlessness and cyclical throb due to the clash of contiguous overtones, quite oddly introduces a hard-to-accept truth. You know that those unidentified resonances are leading to a superior form of awareness; yet the slightest interference – a noise from the outside, someone who tries to talk without realizing about the necessity of silence in that very instant – constitutes a low blow to the determination of maintaining that link to an advanced stage active, the balloon of confidence deflated by the beak of acquiescence to rational poverty, a translucent perfection spoiled by irrelevant personal expressions.
I’ve been writing at length a propos of the inevitability of approaching certain materials in appropriate contexts, recoiling in front of reports that mention approaches to this kind of release via iPod or Walkman while on a train or in a subway station, places where only a much thicker action can actually be heard (but not accurately analyzed), often jeopardizing our precious hearing given the inevitable requirement of substantial headphone volume. It took five listens of Terrain in a realistically quiet room – and I was not even completely satisfied with the level of stillness – before having a stab at jotting down words that, as frequently occurring when dealing with these genres, are probably near-useless. This causes a serious inside fracture. On the one hand I’m intensely keen on this type of art, looking at these records as a weapon against the stagnation of perception; on the other, we must wonder how many people are in fact properly listening to them, at least partially respecting the creators’ original diagram. This music acts on the psyche in extremely subtle, subliminal fashion, and it’s highly unlikely that more than a handful of individuals will be able to understand its almost disconcerting emotional density, a lesson in compositional soberness and acoustic sensitivity that instead risks to linger in semi-obscurity or – worse still – to be confused among the hordes of minor creative entities hiding behind a droning/environmental mask. Let’s not permit it.