Although certain artists – Kevin Drumm comes to mind – can produce aesthetically and intellectually compelling material with an impressive amount of regularity, I’ve always had a soft spot for sonic researchers who toil slowly and painstakingly. James Hamilton (JH) fits into this restricted group.
Apeirozoan is the result of five years of experimenting with the sounds of an electronic organ – in this case, a Hammond BV – altered to a point of downright unrecognizability. A Hammond HR-40 cabinet, a Leslie 825, guitar and bass amplifiers, analogue filters, spring and plate reverbs, and string resonators were also employed by Hamilton to achieve this, together with a not better specified “vocal mass” in one of the sections. At EMS in Stockholm, the bulk of the original recordings was afterwards put through a Serge system for further transfiguration before the final mix.
JH had confined himself to just over an hour of music in a prior album that was built upon “internal organs” (Xenolith, from 2017). Now we have a splendidly designed 5-CD box set that lacks a digital or streaming edition (you’ve been warned). There are undoubtedly numerological or other types of references for each disc’s exact duration of 66 minutes and 36 seconds, a grand total of 333 minutes. As this is outside of my realm of non-expertise, I’d rather leave it to analysts of non-acoustic data. (*) According to the composer, Apeirozoan should be received loud in a quiet room free of visual distractions. This listener advises good quality headphones with a medium volume level for the unfortunates who cannot afford the suggested setting.
Considerable slices of this opus are shaped by expansive masses of frequencies and sibylline droning entities unhurriedly drifting in and out of complete silence, in no way relatable to the voice of an organ. A wealth of hyper-acute subtleties and subsonic undercurrents also exists and, needless to say, won’t be genuinely acknowledged unless the work is granted the required attention. It is indisputable that the more time one spends with these narcotics, the stronger an entirely unconscious addiction to them is grown.
You can detect what Hamilton’s labor has produced in every bit. Substances that may have derived from a minuscule nucleus but nevertheless swell unendingly. Walls of metaphysical moans that appear to conceal the secrets of souls destined for the shades. The planned coldness of an experiment that, shockingly, instead reveals an immeasurable quantity of sheer humanity to its conductor. In other words, a clear sense of both creative and somatic distress seems to prevail. Something that, in terms of the arts, has the potential to yield incredible outcomes like this while virtually annihilating the psychophysical fortitude required to continue along the same path.
Do not be misled by reading about hypothetical similarities to well-known figures active in nearby regions to those in which JH operates. That sort of comparison can be irritatingly groundless. This multi-talented gentleman has developed an idiosyncratic macrocosm that is centered on the perception of existing in relation to dimensions that have not yet been attained, but are already plainly obvious to individuals capable of deciphering vibrational codes of communication. This enormous release is reserved to people who can comprehend instantly, and eschew figures of speech. And, in keeping with what I just typed, there’s no need to add anything else.
(*) Editor’s note: What better “analyst” than the very composer to explain? As per Mr. Hamilton’s words, “this structure doesn’t necessarily ‘mean’ anything in an essential sense, but when I’m working I need some sort of structural frame to be able to do this at all, and it usually ends up being time – in this case it allowed for internal symmetries which helped to organise as I was carving away the 80 hours or so of recordings that fed into this”.