LULL - LIKE A SLOW RIVER - Glacial Movements Records - 2008
Uma das várias frentes de desenvolvimento musical do sempre hiper-activo Mick J. Harris foi, no início dos 90s, o seu projecto Lull. Coexistindo com os Scorn numa época em que estes poliam o seu som rumo ao ambientalismo dub, Lull ficava já no território da ausência dos beats, e das estranhas canções de embalar que o nome sugere nasceram paisagens desoladas e inóspitas. Este sub-género do ambient foi na época adjectivado de isolationist, e os Lull, com os três álbuns que editaram na conceituada Sentrax entre 1992 e 1994, ajudaram a definir o género. Desde então, a sua produção tornou-se mais espaçada, já que Mick Harris foi dando mais importância a outros projectos. A última vez que se ouviu falar de Lull foi há sete anos, num disco dividido com Origami Arktika, se descontarmos as duas compilações posteriormente editadas na Manifold. É portanto com uma certa surpresa que se assiste ao regresso de Lull, apesar do isolacionismo estar novamente na ordem do dia. Like A Slow River é um trabalho de atmosferas frias e minimais, seguramente o mais frio e sombrio trabalho até agora editado por Mick Harris. Os títulos dos temas e o grafismo do digipak sugerem um imenso rio que transporta lentamente enormes blocos de gelo, com a correspondente ilustração sonora destinada a provocar no ouvinte uma letargia hipotérmica. As faixas são cinco variações sobre o mesmo tema e têm claras semelhanças entre si, construídas sobre drones profundos, com a adição de estratos preenchidos por ressonâncias, vibrações, cadências e outras texturas sonoras que dão a necessária diversidade. Umas vezes mais deep-space, como em "Whiteout" e "The Sheet", outras mais industrial, como em "Like A Slow River" e "Treeless Grounds", ou ainda completamente alienígena, como em "Illusion Of Unbroken Surface", este é um álbum indispensável que traz Lull de volta a um jogo no qual é mestre.
Second ReviewIf I wouldn't have seen this release, I would just think that Mick Harris' project Lull would have died a soft death somewhere sometime ago. A question of shifting interests, or perhaps nothing more to say. But look here: 'Like A Slow River', a really new Lull album, recorded earlier this year. I must admit that it's been also a while since I last heard Lull (shifting interests perhaps), but if I was to describe, from memory, how Lull sounded like, I would no doubt describe something like 'Like A Slow River': long dark pieces of ambient music, or to use the vulgus of the old days, isolationist music, which live up to the name of the label, Glacial Movements. Like a glacier, this music moves, but very slowly, but without a doubt: it moves. Despite the gap of many years it seems that nothing changed in this music, which is fine for the die hard fans, but to me it's a bit of a disappointment I guess. I could have played some of the older records and get the same idea. But I didn't, I played the new one and thought it was not very new, but I also thought it was quite nice to hear.(FWD)
VITAL WEEKLY nr.629
I Don't recommend necking a spicy pot noodle in this sticky weather. I just did it just then and totally regretted it.... This ice cool Lull CD should cool me off. Lull is an alias of Mick Harris of Scorn ex-napalm death and a whole load of other obscure aliases. Mick Harris fuckinf rules and that is a fact. 'Like A Slow River' is a smart collection of isolationist drones and eerie ambient sounds that recall a cold arctic wind. Very mysterious sounding and very subtle in its execution the howling breeze gently whispers and hovers above glacial shimmering tones. The artwork is very fitting and compliments the sounds perfectly. Quality gear and highly recommended. I don't make a habit of eating pot noodles by the way... "
It is hard to imagine that
there's a direct link between Napalm Death and extreme 'isolationist' ambient.
But there is, and ex-Napalm Death drummer Mick (MJ) Harris is the linking pin.
As Scorn he has created post-industrial dub (working with Bill Laswell, among
others), and as Lull he has createst some of the deepest, abstract ambient
Glacial Movements – I wondered how long a label could sustain its existence based upon a singular aesthetic theme, exploiting desolate, glacial atmospherics in a regular stream of releases. Yet, defying all my expectations, Glacial Movements has not only survived in these difficult economic times, but has actually thrived. I have watched them with interest, emerging from anonymity, and fledgling beginnings that demonstrated a flawed, but passionate approach, to now attracting one of the Isolationism /Dark Ambience scene’s elder statesmen, Mick Harris of LULL.
The label now has a premier artist on its roster, and the packaging and design of “Like a Slow River” does justice to the sheer quality of this release. Harris infuses glorious and resonant precision into his work, with the soft focus shimmering atmospherics of “Whiteout”, and “The Sheet”, there is a sense of foreboding throughout, and we are immediately plunged into a bleak and desolate soundscape that rivals the work of Lustmord or Thomas Koner. The title track, and indeed each subsequent piece, deploys a serene, eerie fabric of sound, rich and reverberant tonalisms, time –dilated and expansive tracts, imbued with Arctic silence, and haunting ambience.
There are no end of descriptive words that can be employed to describe these soundscapes, most of which are used [perhaps over-used] on a regular basis, so without labouring the point any further this is an important release, marking a time and a place, defining and crystallising the label’s whole aesthetic in a singular masterful release. Go and Buy Now. BGN
Mick Harris' latest release as Lull is a
quiet and stately album, the sounds at times being barely above a whisper, a
state of affairs entirely in keeping with the motivating philosophy behind the
Italian label Glacial Movements i.e., making us aware of the paradoxically
fragile strength and crystalline beauty of the polar regions before it’s too
Quarta uscita per l’etichetta romana
dedicata all’ambient isolazionista Glacial Movements, sempre più intraprendente,
non solo sotto l’aspetto della cura degli eleganti packaging delle sue
produzioni ma anche e soprattutto sotto quello della rinomanza degli artisti
Przyznam szczerze, że zaczynałem się
obawiać o Glacial Movements - młodą włoską wytwórnię ukierunkowaną na wydawanie
tzw. arktycznego ambientu. Wyraźnie widać było tendencję spadkową w kolejnych
wydawanych materiałach. Jednakże moje wątpliwości zostały właśnie rozwiane. Otóż
pojawił się album nie lepszy, lecz wyjątkowy.
"Every rose has its thorns" and in the
same vein, every musician known for his deep beats and opressive atmospheres has
a soft side. In the case of Scorn's Mick Harris, his soft side is Lull.
Come un fiume lento e come il lento fluire di un fiume, per l’appunto, lento si muovono le cinque tracce (quattro sufficientemente lunghe, pur se adeguate al genere di appartenenza, e una, la conclusiva ‘Illusion Of Unbroken Surface’, di soli 4’ e 31”) che riportano in vita il nome di Lull. Infatti, se si escludono un paio di raccolte e un disco condiviso con Origami Arktika (mi riferisco a ‘Brook’) erano ben dieci anni, ovvero da quando vide la luce ‘Moments’, per la mitica Release Entertainment, che il maestro Mick Harris non ci degnava di un nuovo lavoro con la sua creatura isolazionista in senso ambient. E il fatto che l’album venga rilasciato per mezzo della Glacial Movements vi deve fornire un’ulteriore indicazione circa quelle che sono le suggestive immagini, evocate dall’ascolto di ‘Like A Slow River’, di corpi (non umani) solidi e ghiacciati abbandonati a se stessi in una deriva infinita nel mare che si muove tra i naturali muri bianchi del circolo polare artico. Chiaro che le composizioni siano veicolo perfetto di un senso di profonda desolazione (in ciò supportate dal clima di oscurità trasparente che le avvolge), ma hanno anche valenza quale strumento di introspettiva analisi interiore di natura sonora, figlia di riverberi raggelanti e di scostamenti di drone che simulano masse gravitazionali colte sul punto di morire e che stanno esalando, a modo loro, un ultimo e flebile respiro. Al limite dell’udibile, seppur materico. Da queste parti fa molto freddo, un freddo che congela le ossa, ma soprattutto la mente.
I've got to say, quickly before I properly start: Wow! Mick Harris finally back with a Lull album and it's a superb piece of work. 4 pieces that flow together and create a soothing, yet strangely edgy feel. Starting off with barely a whisper, the tracks grow into full formed ambient drifts, shifting slowly with ebbs and flows and a beautiful atmosphere. There's an undercurrent of darkness, which works with the subtle melodic drone. A brilliant release and a real string to the bow of the excellent Glacial Movements label. Recommended, particularly for those that enjoy deep ambient.
Le recensioni iniziano sempre così, come
un mantra: “Mick Harris-Napalm Death-Scorn-Painkiller”. Subito si crea un
"It’s been a long, strange trip for Mick
Harris. Once upon a time he was the drummer with Napalm Death, (in)famous for
compacting heavy metal into super-concentrated tracks of sometimes just a few
seconds duration. But he’s gone to the other extreme with his dark ambient
project Lull. Like a Slow River is his eight or ninth album under this name, and
it’s a challenging listen. Five tracks are listed on this 60 minute outing, but
it might as well be one long suite, as the pieces all sound more or less the
same. This disc exists in a hinterland somewhere between music and noise -
there’s no rhythm, harmony, or melody - and yet… If it’s noise, it’s not
confrontational in the style of Whitehouse et al. It’s the aural equivalent of
standing on a hill, listening to the sound of the wind, looking out across a
bleak, barren landscape - and in fact one of the tracks is titled ‘Treeless
Grounds’. The overall sound is reminiscent of Thomas Koner (and indeed Lull &
Koner shared space on Virgin’s groundbreaking Ambient 4: Isolationism CD back in
1994), but not as austere. Lull is unlikely to ever find himself on the cover of
glossy magazines, but the few people who do buy this release will savour it, the
way you would an expensive bottle of wine.
DE:BUG issue 124 July/August 08
Mick Harris who has been
composing isolationist ambient music as Lull since 1992 must feel right at home
at Glacial Movements Records - a label that has rapidly made a name for itself
by specializing in releasing exactly this style of ambient music. Following a
few years of silence, Lull makes a impressive return with the release of Like A
Mick (MJ) Harris, once known for a
seemingly unlikely transmigration of the musical soul from death metal to
isolationist ambient, is back, after a lull, appositely, as Lull. By now Harris
has attained a hallowed place in the canon of Dark Ambient, alongside the likes
of Lustmord and Thomas Köner. In terms of the foundations of a sub-genre, these
last-mentioned were the ones who did the heavy digging work, with Harris
arriving late to benefit from a ferment of industrial-ambient and dark-drone
activity in the early-90s. In fact Harris, for all his accumulated kudos, was no
great pioneer, the true founder of this inverted church being Brian "Lustmord"
Williams, the true High Priest of Isolationist Rituals, who was fully forged in
the UK industrial flame of the early 80s. In terms of input, being brutal, a
tendency he would be familiar with as ex-Napalm Death merchant, Harris brought
little to the sounding table other than a mimetic ear for the spooked and the
downright desolate, sprung from a harsh audio-sensibility allied to a
soundscaping skill which enabled him to find something aesthetically pleasing in
the deepest and darkest recesses of the Muse's expression, most clearly seen on
1994's isolationist classic, Cold Summer.
Mick Harris of Napalm Death is not a
person many would associate with the unhurried and hushed sound of dark-ambience
where the laws of subtle texturing and atmospheric imaging rule supreme. Since
the early nineties however, Lull has been the side-project created as a vehicle
for Harris' to exercise his more contemplative musings. After a number of high
profile releases on Relapse's experimental sister-label 'Release' and releases
for a range of other specialist labels, his latest project 'Like a Slow River'
comes courtesy of ice-worshippers and purveyors of quality dark ambience- 'Glacial
Thanks to a recognisable concept, tireless
promotional activities, co-operations with some of the major acts of the genre
and a musical language capable of addressing many different scenes, Alessandro
Tedeschi's Glacial Movements imprint has turned into one of the main newcomers
in the Ambient segment over the past year and a half. The label's first
compilation, "Cryosphere", was one of the talked-about items in insider circles
at the time, quickly selling out its limited print run and full-length
follow-ups have received more than just an appreciative high-five in various
Print- and WebZines. Interestingly enough, "Cryosphere", with its reverbed
spaces and cool-burning bell sounds, proved to be the outfit's most untypical
release to date.
Avec son goût avéré pour les ambiances
cryogénisées, les progressions dark-ambient lentes et un certain situationnisme
isolationniste, nul doute que Mick Harris était, sous son étiquette Lull, une
recrue de choix pour le très recommandable label italien Glacial Movements.
Emmené par Alessandro Tedeschi (de Neverthland), Glacial Movements s'est fait le
porte-voix abstract/ambient d'un monde polaire en voie de désagrégation,
évoquant à travers la beauté cristalline et morphologique de ces productions la
force et la fragilité d'un écosystème menacé. Like a Slow River rend
particulièrement hommage à cette dernière image paradoxale. Comme un fleuve
coulant au milieu de la glace, la musique de Lull s'y révèle avec une présence
magnétique et obsédante qui semble inaltérable. Tel un flux antédiluvien, les
coulées sonores liquides et prégnantes concoctées par Mick Harris conduisent nos
sens à travers des filtres glaciaires, des pics de glace s'étoilant au contact,
minéralisant notre écoute dans un sentiment de veille frissonnant. Mais, au cour
de la musique, en y prêtant l'oreille, on capte de temps en temps l'ombre sourde
de bruits enfouis plus inquiétants, de matières organiques qui fondent,
craquellent et se meuvent presque sans qu'on s'en aperçoive. "Illusion of
unbroken surface" titre le dernier morceau, le plus court, comme pour précipiter
au beau milieu de notre écoute se sentiment de menace diffus, imperceptible
presque mais déjà existant.
Twenty-one ReviewGlacial Movements' latest release comes from no less a figure than English artist Mick J. Harris (Scorn, Painkiller, Napalm Death) here operating under his "ambient isolationist" moniker LULL. The hour-long Like a Slow River which pairs four long settings (twelve to fourteen minutes each) with a shorter closer, is an immersive, slow-motion plunge into the coldest of waters. In "Whiteout," freezing winds slowly sweep across icy and uninhabitable tundra while the rumble of immense gusts and the glacial shift of glassy slabs dominate "The Sheet." The terrain Harris evokes is so eerily vast and barren it seems ghostly, but it's not always threatening: "Treeless Grounds" suggests that it's peaceful too in a setting that recalls Eno's long-form ambient pieces. There's no question Harris's material convincingly conjures the image of massive ice floes drifting imperceptibly across the Arctic sea's surface.
After being back on the map with a great Scorn album, Mick Harris has finally unburied the Lull project with a new full length, and I feel it's only natural that it's been released by Alessandro Tedeschi (Netherworld)'s isolationist label Glacial Movements. Now, has anything changed since the heydays of the Lull sound? I'd say no, and it didn't need to AT ALL, as far as I'm concerned. Since the very first seconds of "Whiteout", you notice that the trademark Lull soundscapes are back in full shape: ultra-deep bass frequencies, floating drone tapestries, feels like being pushed underwater without oxygen AND ENJOYING IT. This is more or less in the vein of the "Cold Summer" masterpiece, and though unavoidably less groundbreaking it's still an inspired and evocative album. Welcome back, mr. Harris.
Posted: Thursday, August 07, 2008
Assistant Editor Difficult but worth the effort, Mick Harris' take on "glacial ambient" is especially literal.Netherworld's Alessandro Tedeschi founded the Glacial Movements label to explore and promote his concept of "glacial and isolationist ambient" music. Since the founding of the label, such noted artists as Rapoon and Oöphoi have used extended droning tones and thick layers of sustain to create the sonic equivalents of arctic vistas and lonely tundra landscapes. With Like a Slow River, Mick Harris (of Napalm Death and Scorn fame) revives his Lull project to take things even further. These tracks are so minimalist that the notes themselves are largely absent, with just their remnants in the form of lingering echoes left to create a sense of frigid loneliness. "Whiteout" opens the album with several minutes of near-silence, a hint of windy blowing gradually emerging as the only discernible sound, and "The Sheet" is less a metaphor for glacier than a direct reproduction, all icy heaviness, rumbling along with enough strength to carve out mountains but so gradual as to be imperceptible to the human eye. Title track "Like a Slow River" at last adds a hint of contrast in the form of whistling tones; presumably meant to evoke the wind blowing through cracks in the ice, it's tempting to compare them to whale songs, if only to conjure some sense of mammalian life to mitigate the loneliness. "Treeless Grounds" returns to subtle droning, softer than ever, tones bent under the weight of an arctic sky, and "Illusion of Unbroken Surface" finishes things off with higher-pitched windiness, thicker this time, almost harmonic, and the closest the album gets to conventional music. The genius of this album is that Harris provides little assistance to the listener; this isn't an album that will instantly transport you to the arctic north with no effort on your part. With properly focused attention, however, Like a Slow River is an extraordinarily subtle and rewarding listen.
NOISE MAGAZINE issue 6
Nie ważne, że niegdysiejszego pierwszego
blastowego czempiona wśród perkusistów bardziej dziś interesuje bas w znaczeniu
zwierzęcym niż muzycznym*, nieistotne jest też to, że ostatnie albumy spod
szyldu Scorn serwują tylko smutny, snujący się gdzieś przy ścianie
bombastycznego parkietu cień dawnych dokonań w stylu "Collossus" czy "Evanescence".
Wszystkie winy zostały Mickowi Harrisowi - gdyż o nim mowa - zapomniane, kiedy
światło dzienne (a raczej: mroki nocy) ujrzał powrotny - wydany po dziesięciu
latach! - album trochę już zapomnianego, ale zdaniem co poniektórych (w tym mej
skromnej osoby) najwybitniejszego projektu tego nad wyraz płodnego artysty.
Gonzo Circus N°88
Italian label Glacial
Movements' tagline is 'glacial and isolationist ambient' and the new album from
ex-Napalm Death, Painkiller and Scorn mastermind Mick Harris embraces this
concept. Resurrecting his long-absent Lull project, Harris revisits his dark,
minimal ambient alter ego to deliver an album for a label that focuses on those
very themes. The fittingly titled "Like A Slow River" is an hour long journey
spread across five generally lengthy tracks of glacial ambience. Often barely
more than low droning textures and fluid tones, every nuance is subtly portrayed.
Conjuring images of vast windswept polar landscapes, "Like A Slow River" slowly
but accurately paints a picture of a featureless tundra, depicting the gradual
movement of an ice flow and the feeling of absolute isolation the environment
represents. Completely unrushed and slowly evolving, Harris allows the music to
tell its own story through gentle rumbling drones and subtle drifting tones. As
the title suggests, there is a feeling of natural progression throughout the
album, as though nature takes its course at its own steady but insistent pace.
Harris' music is calming and gentle but at the same time has a tense air of the
inevitable whilst creating an impression of epic scale in a magnitude only
possible in nature itself. Often quite tense and at others sublimely calming but
consistently dark and minimal, "Like A Slow River" is quality submersive
listening music with hidden depths that marks the welcome return of one of
Harris' most acclaimed projects.
Lull è l'universo
isolazionista di Mike Harris, nato batterista e distintosi prima nei Napalm
Death, poi negli Scorn da lui fondati e nei Painkiller di John Zorn, giusto per
citare le formazioni più famose che lo hanno visto protagonista. Tutte band da
prendere con le molle, macchine ideate per produrre suoni ostici, e tutte
risalenti agli anni Novanta del secolo scorso. Anche la sigla Lull compare nei
primi anni 90, esattamente nel 1992 con l'album d'esordio Dreamt About Dreaming.
Questa più recente fatica per l'etichetta di Alessandro Tedeschi, in arte
Netherworld (vedi Quaderni D'Altri Tempi n. XI), rompe un silenzio di qualche
anno, anche se parlare di silenzio interrotto è qui eccessivo. Infatti, anche
questo Like A Slow River è un flusso di basse frequenze, di possenti vibrazioni
sotteranee, che accarezzano il silenzio, lunghi drones elettronici che soffiano
nell'interminabile notte polare, idoneo commento a una nuova variazione sul tema
del glaciale, tanto caro all'etichetta di Tedeschi. Un lavoro da annoverare tra
le cose più egregie realizzate dal musicista britannico. L'insieme è composto da
quattro lunghe tracce tra i 12 e i 14 minuti e una quinta, molto più breve,
quasi una coda spiritata. Difficile e più che altro inutile entrare nel merito
della singola track, essendo questo un ambito dove conta l'intera sequenza
sonora, un lento emergere di cupi rimbombi, sprofondamenti nell'immobilità,
ciclico avvicendarsi di timbri oscuri e inquietanti. Masse sonore abissali che
collassano ripetutamente e sembrano mimare il lento incedere dei ghiacciai
eterni. Insomma un disgelo dell'artista votato al gelo assoluto.
Il y a eu cet album d’Andrei Samsonov, Void in (sur Mute Parallel Series), qui exprimait littéralement le cours d’une rivière sous la glace. Elle diffusait sa propre lumière, loin de la surface qui était un autre état de sa matière. Mick Harris lui, en tant que Lull, a préféré depuis le début les courants abyssaux et la progression dans une totale obscurité. A peine y croise-t-on quelques créatures phosphorescentes. Autrement, c’est symphonie de la haute pression, et vrombissement d’une mélancolie de fond des mers – rumbling, rumbling, rumbling. Puis, parenthèse de plusieurs années, Mick Harris se consacrant pour l’essentiel à Scorn – Lull se réactive le temps d’un travail plus électroacoustique que nous avons publié en 2001. Aujourd’hui, les premières façons sont remises en œuvre. Mais on a récemment lu que Like a slow river ne marquait que trop peu de différences avec ses disques des années 1990 (Journey through underworlds, Dreamt about dreaming, Continue, etc.). C’est faux, la façon ne signifie pas la forme, mais le geste. On ne peut reprocher à l’artisan d’avoir dompté son tour. Si les premiers disques louvoyaient dans les abysses, Like a slow river est véritablement le chant d’une eau douce et encore doucement engourdie par la banquise qui la couvre. C’est un disque d’après une débâcle tranquille, d’une fonte patiente qui éclaircit le vrombissement et crée, par étrange phénomène de remontée, de beaux courants d’air glacés. Ce drone magnifique, débarrassé du sel et chargé de lumière, ne chante pas encore son courant, mais il réverbère le bleu de la glace qui le couvre, caressée de soleil. Ces chants sont comme de douces vibrations de métal transformé en souffle bienveillant. On pense comme souvent à Thomas Köner, dont les premiers travaux furent publiés simultanément à ceux de Lull. Ici, pas d’éclosion, mais une même rumeur de neige, un vague de lumière poudrée. Cymbale frottée peut-être, n’oublions jamais que Mick Harris est avant tout un batteur d’exception et que ses gestes peuvent revenir en de singulières résurgences. Fil de lumière donc et, au-dessous, le plancher océanique qui rugit à l’unisson puis élève de vastes tremblements, portant plus près de l’affleurement les vagues argentées. Ce sont elles qui confirment encore la débâcle, se chargent de couleurs, du bleu à l’orange pâle, montrent la voie de la rivière, dont on saisit avec émerveillement le lent réveil.
Už jsem se bál, že projekt
Lull zmizí ze zemského povrchu. Mick Harris, byvší člen Napalm Death a pilný
elektronický operátor pod hlavičkou dark elektronického projektu Scorn,
překvapil a po sedmi letech přichystal další zachmuřený, hlukově ambientní výlet.
Jeho deska Like A Slow River pokračuje v klasické náladě Lull minulé dekády. Tím
je myšlen hutný a valivý sound ve své minimalistické, totálně izolované podobě.
By now Mick Harris has achieved a kind of apotheosis, occupying a hallowed place in the Dark Drone Annals, alongside, if with a slightly lower stature, the likes of Lustmord and Thomas Köner. These last-mentioned were the founders of the isolationist creed that arose from a ferment of industrial-ambient and dark-drone activity which Harris did much to carry forward in the mid-90s. Harris had a flair for the desolate and voidoid fuelled by a harsh audio-sensibility forged in the fire of Napalm Death. What had been less clear till then was a certain prowess in sound grabbing and scaping that drew the listener into the abyss without drowning them, most notably on 1994's isolationist classic, Cold Summer. Like A Slow River, not surprisingly, finds Lull still documenting similar psychogeography, as atonal murmur and reverberant wheeze consort with currents beneath the surface. For all its relentless dronanism and slab-like sonority, Lull’s minimal movements are fully felt in slow falls inward into abyssal depths. Lull charts a tonal topography bleakly remote from harmonic referents across five variations on a theme of sickly sub-bass slithers and queasy mid-range slivers, configuring sounding sources into varying modulations and vibrations, shifting cadence and timbre. Like A Slow River will fall, out of categorical imperative, into that black hole facilely labelled "dark ambient" into which much disappears from view, pulled down into lumpen-homogeneity by association. The Lull aesthetic might more accurately be seen, though, as a radical redraft of 80s/90s industrial power electronics with noise reduction on, allowing expression to subtler textural resonances of signal. However designated, Lull’s variation on a pessimist-humanist enviro-futureshock theme joins those from Rapoon, Oophoi, and GM curator himself, Netherworld, as an entirely congruent addition.
THE WIRE nr.294 (august 2008)
DROME MAGAZINE nr.15
What makes ambient
isolationist? In the early 1990s it was a reaction against the highly rhythmical,
ornate, more-techno-than-ambient music that, oxymoronically, was often used for
dancing. Stripped to the most minimal, artists like Thomas Köner created very
quiet, slow moving music that seemed like the sound of absence. Polar regions
seemed an apt metaphor, a featureless, flat, wind-swept landscape. And unlike
the deserts, bleak landscapes that have inspired other musicians, polar regions
are uninhabited, removing the vestiges of aboriginal civilizations that haunt
Steve Roach and his desert ambient colleagues. In 1994, Virgin Records released
a 2-CD compilation entitled Isolationism that tremendously expanded the
acceptable range of music covered by the term. In particular, it opened the door
to paranoia and despair, looking at isolation as a social term, and moving
toward other environments, inner as well as outer, where an individual could be
isolated. But one label which has retained the far, cold north as inspiration,
ironically from Mediterranean Italy, is Glacial Movements, self described as "glacial
and isolationist ambient." Their first album was a compilation, Cryosphere,
released in July 2006, and their schedule has proceeded as slowly as the ice
portrayed on their covers and alluded to in the label's very name. In May 2008,
the label's fourth release was Mick Harris' first full-length album as Lull in
nearly a decade, Like a Slow River. Harris should need no introduction to
long-time ambience enthusiasts from his work in the early 1990s with Bill
Laswell, and perhaps from his various ambient metal (speaking of oxymorons)
projects such as Napalm Death and Painkiller. But Like a Slow River is very much
in keeping with Glacial Movements' stated aesthetic — long, slow textures, an
absence of melody or rhythm, few points of reference. This is especially true of
the opening track, Whiteout, where everything blurs into various shades of white
noise, marked with high-pitched gusts of wind. But each track is distinct, from
The Sheet's deep bass rumbles that come in surges, eventually permitting
glimpses of soft melodic fills, to the gentle oscillating drones of Treeless
Grounds, which has fewer landmarks than Whiteout, if that's possible. Lull's
isolation is peaceful, meditative, a turning inward for our most private
thoughts, faint glimmerings, and the remainder of the previous night's dreams.
From the punishing speed of
Napalm Death through the narcotic dubstep of Scorn and into the isolationism of
Lull, all of the projects from Mick Harris are connected by an utterly bleak
outlook on the world and the human condition. This album was released in 2008,
marking it the first proper Lull album in something like 8 years (outside of a
one-off collaboration and two collections of rarities); and Like A Slow River
stands as one of the better releases in his entire discography and it's
certainly the best Lull album to date. The five pieces unfold into grey masses
of mist, fog, and shadow without much in the way of delineation of shape or form.
There are heavy rumbles of distorted basstones as if thunderous explosions were
being set off many miles away, and there are slight filigrees of melody coaxed
out of the purposefully amorphous drone passages. Ambient music has long favored
a reductionist approach, and Harris (like Thomas Koner, BJ Nilsen, and at times
Lustmord) instills his dramatic absences with an existential dourness that is
signature of the isolationist aesthetic. It's very very cold, very very slow,
and very very well done.