Info Dragon's Eye Fourth Anniversary 
"Dragon's Eye Fourth Anniversary"
by various
Dragon’s Eye Recordings (independent)
"Shortwaves to Longwaves - Yann Novak"
"Rotation - Wyndel Hunt"
"Seagram Series (For Mark Rothko) - FOURM"
"77:00 (edit) - Jamie Drouin"
"One Day Winter - Ian Hawgood"
"Gravel Road - Ian Hawgood"
"Of a Winter Dawn - Corey Fuller"
"Snow Static - Corey Fuller"
"Free Dissociation - Wyndel Hunt"
Dragon's Eye
Yann Novak
Jamie Drouin
Corey Fuller
Ian Hawgood
Luigi Turra
Pierre Gerard
Wyndel Hunt
Tomas Phillips


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Over four years of operations, Dragon's Eye has forged a name as a sound stable for artists in experimental ambient and minimal electronics. It celebrates its anniversary with a free compilation, pretext enough, if it be needed, to run through recent DE emissions. In Flowers, a traditional fourth anniversary gift, the label offers specimens of its sound garden, from the more familiar - curator Yann Novak, Wyndel Hunt, Celer - to the barely known (Shinkei, Pierre Gerard, i8u, Tomas Phillips). The uninitiated may check out the full sound-view here for starters, while others proceed to the mains.

First up is Canadian sound-shaper Jamie Drouin, founder of DE-affiliated Infrequency imprint. Having hosted Yann Novak's The Breeze Blowing Over Us, Drouin gets the Novak payback with A Three Month Warm Up. Their common ground is that of capturing spaces permeated by their animating presences, cf. the pair's +ROOM-ROOM, reviewed later that same profile. A total of 124 individual field recordings were captured, variously tweaked, then rolled out into "77:00." The sourcing draws on Drouin’s frequenting of a public square over an eponymous period, sampling its sound, pursuing a concept inspired by the orchestral warm-up ‘where a single tone emerges out of the various instruments and voices.’ In loose mimesis, the elements are filtered down to essence and stretched out into a nacreous soundcloud. A vast amorphous tract of flux and micro-mutability, this pointillist panoply of teeming thrum and space ranges between a veritable Boeing-747 of the stratospheric and a Köner-esque chthonic, layers of harmonised din and clatter vying in vain for prevalence. No monotone drone, this, as muffled traces of tones and pitches are spun to the outer from a whorling core. Shifts in intensity are evident between sections, with surges at the centre subsiding to whispers at the periphery. Originally a site-specific installation, Drouin creates an abstracted sonic sculpture of the space, as if a distillation of all of those three months were trapped in its amber.

Next up a collab between UK sonician, FOURM, nom de disque of Barry G. Nichols – familiar to experimental readers from his (now defunct) white_line website - with Italians Dani Sani aka Shinkei and Luigi Turra, known to experimental consumers from his Microsuoni mail order and distribution site, both involved in the Koyuki label. All have gained a name for severely minimalist work, radically reductive pieces of liminal listening involving interaction of minute discrete elements that threaten to efface their musical status. Here the trio reference their minimalist artists of choice on Clean Forms, intended both as homage to the past and prospective influence to the next generation of minimalists. The three pieces are fiercely lowercase, needing close listening, the threesome working microsonically to create new layers, with pitched textures - abraded, grainy or metallic - threaded with field recordings, communing with buzz and silence. Though all display common traits of reductive austerity in their microsonic specimens, they are internally distinct. FOURM's Rothko-dedicated “Seagram Series” hosts remote bell tones and rustles suggestive of winds wafting through cylinders. Lacunae of silence alternate with leaf-crackle, bird calls, and peripheral voices in “Nokori,” Shinkei’s ode to Ken Nakazawa. Luigi Turra contributes the longest quietest piece, the 18-minute “Alluminium.Zinc” seguing between silence and the minutiae of metals.

Ian Hawgood, prolific shuttler between Tokyo and London, presents in Snow Roads a set of tone poems 'inspired by the departing winter, exploring feelings of stillness, isolation and loneliness.' Analogue and digital treatments to piano, guitar, vocals, and field recordings are folded into gentle organic electronics, a strong visual sensibility manifesting in a drifting sequence of weather-bound dreamings. Hawgood plies his trade with a few kindred spirits - The Remote Viewer (harmonium), El Fog (vibes), Celer (tingsha bells), not to mention mastering by Taylor Deupree. The collection dwells on a wistful languor, a lilt here a tilt there, seldom surging to climax, somewhere between the riches of Mountains and the desolation of Richard Skelton. In line with its expressive remit, the album feels lonely and snowbound, but is no wilting wallow; the speckled striations of the shorter, field-based tracks help reinforce the eponymous elements. Long sustains infused with field infusions move to melancholics in “Gravel Road.” Some pieces dwell in a site of pronounced quiet – not the lacunae of a Lopez, but low-profile presences in the form of the soft tinkle of bells and gentle piano treatments, with Celer–y drones and nature extracts; some are extended, like the beauteous dirge of “One Day Winter” and the shimmering string swathes of “Specks Then Flakes,” others sketch-like interludes such as “Crows” and “Snow Roads,” enhancing a strong sense of time and space.

The newcomer here is Corey Fuller, US-born sound artist, who relocated to Japan when young, spent 20 years there before eventual return to the US, and now lives back in Japan. Beyond biography, this informs Seas Between’s concept – articulated as an imagining, not just of home and its interposed distances, but ‘a document of the placement and creation of a convolved third-culture reality.’ Certainly more of a delicate meditative affair than the DE house style, it makes much of its array of instrumentation – piano (plain, prepared and Rhodes), organ (pipe, pump), pianica, accordion, guitars, Gamelan bells, Thai finger cymbals, assorted percussion, and found objects; other musicians bring cello (John Friesen), saxophones and bass clarinet (Tyler Wilcox), and piano (Tomoyoshi Date). From its misty opening, its tones tend toward the tender and winsome end of electronic expression, the likes of "Snow Static" seeming to channel the tenuousness of the temporal, the ambivalence of location and its readiness to turn to yearning. There's a comparative purity of sound at work here, though trappings of DE present in the form of field recordings, diversely sourced and mediated - room tones, contact mikes deployed in Japan and Washington, hydrophonic captures from both shores of the Pacific, reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, analog tape delays. A sonic modelling of oceanic drift and swirling breezes is suggested, as on "Of a Winter Dawn". Somewhat reined in and polite next to the textural gruzz and fuzz of DE elders Novak, Drouin et al, the set seeks a locus of feeling - linking the emotional and geographical, in sensations of separation and longing.

And finally Wyndel Hunt returns with Sunshine Noir, a new skin for his old ceremony of integrating melody and noise using electronics, acoustic instruments, field recordings, and the occasional piece of amplified trash (his words). His work is articulated in terms of a focus on 'conceiving narrative, painting, and sculpture as analogues for structuring composition and shaping sound'. Compositional techniques referencing collage and aural painting, sonic sculpture are de rigueur. On this his fourth recording for DE Hunt's edifices strain towards the steepling but their forms are constantly under threat of crumbling and combusting. Its eight pieces roll out the drones, riding on a storm of digi-pointillism, buffeted by soft-noise eddies, the eponymous elements manifesting in the MBV-distilled blasts of fuzz-tone buzz-drone sunshine of its surface and a certain core of dark and danger at its noir heart. Exhibit A: "Free Dissociation," wherein Hunt’s ga(u)ze takes in Tim Hecker and Fennesz as he surveys the field of sound between delicacy and brutality, between pitched and unpitched, like a landscape painter wracked by visitations from a Pollockian paint-spattering spirit; sometimes a scuffed and fissured Pop Ambient notion - lyrical drift with edges frayed by the digi-noise-nik.

Review by Alan Lockett


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