SIMON WICKHAM-SMITH – A Hidden Life And Other Works


This is the second printing of a 50-copy limited run of a cassette originally published in 2015 and containing music that, in the opinion of Tanuki’s honcho Patrick Thinsy, went undeservedly unnoticed. Being largely unacquainted with Simon Wickham-Smith’s production, and having acknowledged the presence of Robert Ashley and Laetitia Sonami as the reciting engines of the 45-minute “A Hidden Life” (with Joan Stango rendering episodic song fragments in there), I found myself curious enough.

Seemingly, a sizable chunk of material to swallow at once – but only if you set the mind in an overly analytic mode. Given that the longest opus on offer revolves around a translation of a Buddhist book, those who are into that kind of narrative will enjoy the words from beginning to end, as in a refined audiobook. Atheists not obsessed with the intellectual implications of the human language – privileging instead the sheer sonic components of the universe as a wholeness – are probably going to be lulled to cerebral rest by the unfolding narration, catching snippets of significance and scattered phrases as a complement to a temporary suggestion of inner quietude. In both cases, it’s rather obvious that a link with Eliane Radigue’s Songs Of Milarepa does exist, although Wickham-Smith’s background electronics are certainly less deep than Radigue’s nerve-cleansing waves. And I’ll be totally honest about Stango, whose “tired folksinger” vocal tone appears to me as the proverbial sore thumb sticking out in such an entrancing context.

As far as the remaining tracks are concerned, it’s good to be able to better scrutinize the grain of the spectral superimpositions assembled by the composer. This reviewer detected a particular appeal in “Koimèsis” and “Close”, which may be described as drone pieces inhabited by microorganisms tending to different harmonic directions, ultimately managing to stay within the limits of an admirable compactness. Also fascinating are the peculiar combinations of “Cellules”, these ears enjoying a cross of ill-shapen earthborn utterances and bionic whales as acoustic symbol of a world to consider living in for a theoretical next existence. For the Ashley completist, there is a CD edition exclusively featuring “A Hidden Life”; however, my strong advice is to check out the tape, for Wickham-Smith’s conceptions deserve to be recognized by sensible listeners.

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