Recorded at the church of St. James The Lesser in the namesake village near Sheffield, Midhopestones is characterized by a type of gestural gravity which thrives in the realm of whispered uneasiness, an apparently inviolable stillness perturbed by flimsy timbral substances. The record’s enormous value was immediately established after the reaction to the opening “Strines”. Contrarily to what usually happens with any improvisation I happen to analyze, it didn’t take long for this writer to be reduced to a state of partial catalepsy, still responsive to the ongoing sonic activities while subjected to a series of infinitesimal, if clearly perceived nervous shocks. This looked like a recurring incitement to remain awake in order to avoid a tumble into some kind of black hole. A spine-chilling vibe – but also a necessary component of an intensely intimate experience – arising when we really decide to listen, letting the sounds break through our wholeness and relinquishing linguistic demarcations.
The participants – working with harps, soprano sax, laptop, voice and amplified objects – sound utterly deprived of personal ambition, entirely taken by the construction of a comfortless enthrallment rendered even more compelling by a somewhat disembodied restraint. No metaphors, symbols or incoherent representations, just a constant quest for this invisible communion, human instincts tending to the achievement of a condition that is both incontrovertibly corporeal and unpremeditatedly spiritual. To do this, they privilege the starkest aspects of a tremulous instrumental organism – Minton pertinently counterpointing Doneda’s frail undertones and undernourished pitches with his own choice of multiphonic guttural emissions, Patterson and Martin settling on a speckled diversity sheltered by pulsing murmur and gentle percussiveness, Davies’ involvement barely audible at times, tremendously effective when the harp’s strings produce extraordinary subsonic hums that put the woofers at risk, setting the room’s loose parts in rattle mode.
This results in incomparably splendid music, a pre-orgasmic, unexploded intensity informed by the erosive traits of hardly manageable anxiety. Visceral sensations that are pretty strange to find in such a context, all the more startling given the evident logic at work: the artists in full control of the procedures, never trespassing the borders of aural congruity, yet eliciting a matchless transcendence. Every additional spin introduces new factors: what at first seems impenetrable becomes perfectly clear the second time around, whereas the firm memories of certain combinations get instead sabotaged by subsequent listens. The naked truth, according to what the rational mind suggests, is that I’m trying to come to terms with this album’s weight, unsure about the implications hiding under the manifest impression. The gut feeling says that we’re in presence of a landmark recording.