I think I’ve finally found the complimentary album to run through the silence and the dark and the night with Nest’s Retold. That album is E + I An Inch of Air. It is compressed, compacted even, to fit in that minuscule of a space at the end of a terminal breath. Yet, it explodes out like a newborn galaxy of the same micro-sonics and tense romanticism Nest crafted so wondrously earlier this year. There is the viola of Emmanuel Witzhum, which layers over itself in the manner of stone or clay forming a canyon over the millenia, effectively responding to the slow, methodical sway of the ocean in the strings of Retold. At points, it feels as if Witzhum is transfixed in some transcendental meditation on the notes he is playing (and not playing!). He circles back around on his own sonic decay and revitalizes it before it lands, unnoticed on the floor like an efflorescing dust bunny. There is much to be said, also, of the subtly practiced art of theme and variation. Patterns and motifs are weaved from a few, very versatile, threads. Craig Tattersall provides recurring electronics, field recordings and hummed accompaniments to the viola that finely curate an environment for such theme and variation. So many people that I have talked to about music, seem to have manipulated themselves into thinking repetition is a problem, induces boredom and should be addressed immediately as a turn-off. With all confidence and conviction, I cannot see how they could make more ignorant judgments about music and, well, the universe. Every winter, bears disappear from the landscape of the living to die a temporary death. Every spring, birds are building nests from the detritus of the previous autumn storms. All things have these cycles; this intercourse of theme and variation. Music seems to be the primary suspect in a campaign to eradicate the cyclical. Yet, when you listen to music like this, I should think even your most stubborn mental shortcomings of processing music would be, at least temporarily, ameliorated by such beauty.
The dusty, heartfelt scratches of branches on a window or the half-suffocated breathing of a dying transistor radio and the approach and retreat of soft waves against rounded rocks are all brought to mind. The are animated with a romanticism and poetry that nearly equals the touch of your lover extending fingertips to wake you with a murmured touch. And the electronics are so subtle, that you have to actively concentrate on them for them to appear, much like those infuriating 3D posters so popular in the 90s. They have a haunting quality that almost betrays the hazy, loving strings and environmental noises.
And as the year is winding faster and faster towards a close, I am ever contemplating an end-of-the-year list of the best albums released during the 365 days called ‘2010’. This album, along with the ever-invigorating Retold, will certainly be making an appearance on that list. The unfortunate thing is that it is available in such a small quantity (100 gorgeously hand-packaged copies for the world), that you’ll be lucky to hear it before the year, this cycle around the sun, hits its ending (and starting) point.