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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Retrograde Reviews: Reinier Van Houdt - Paths Of The Errant Gaze LP

Reinier Van Houdt - Paths Of The Errant Gaze LP
Your only enemy is atrocity.

The only enemy in your life is your imagination...

But then, heck, it was mine for many years when it came to creating ambient music. And as an empath thing, the piano is a solid beginner's point that can, for one, cause a lot of inspiration, and second, in a see, saw, fashion, formulate a lot of writer's block. While it is difficult to believe in yourself, believing in your own music is the biggest factor, for me in my own experience, in whether me and my acquaintances succeed or not. For most of us, the guitar and piano are the main two instruments one starts with, after all...and the piano is exactly what Reinier Van Houdt does best on this new promo from Hallow Ground label. "Paths Of The Errant Gaze" is a portentuous meditation on the 81-note instrument, and a album that presents many twists and turns in the pianistic repertoire.

It's not all flurries of furore by a long shot, though. Opening the album is a dark Murcof-like set of atmospheres that are positively disconcerting in a Demdike Stare catalogue kind of way. Sonic Pieces is a touchstone in theatrical menace. This isn't dark ambient however; there is something sinister but it's more deep and chilled, a strange foreboding chill without the fright at the end of it. The music is deeply transcendental, like the hum of a ghost ship, or the echoes of bat sonic supersound from a cave exit. Maybe it's time to get out? No, let us wallow in these atmospheres a little longer, for we are dreamers who at one point are on our own memorising elephant and next we're in the shallows like a hippopotamus, resting in uncandid serenity. These resonances are heavy on pastoral drone without the irritable hum. They start to fissure and rattle like bones in a dementia fit on second piece "The Fabric Of Loss". Sounds from a torture chamber set into an unpleasant - but strangely comforting - catharsis. It is frightening and gravitates to a dislocated navigation of the spices of life.

By this third track, we need a certain peace. The violins, high pitched in their operatic stalagtite status, create a fair come down period, where the mood irons out any turbulence. Turbulent is a good word to describe this album. If you've ever heard the dissonance of Kevin Drumm or Merzbow you'll get an idea of exactly what this album is going for. Scary, gripping stuff, but not stuff to keep the kids on your side. It is nightmarish at points, but never evil. It sounds like the contents of a troubled mind fighting with a demon that keeps prodding a scythe in the subject's back. For that only you get the feeling this music is from some other dimension, a place where angels are in purgatory (13 minutes into track 2) and the subject is trying desperately to find his or her way out.

When we get past the crackling trail of "Transfinite" there is a vignette to close us out. Impending doom, and all the light goes out on a truly remarkable release.

By track five, "Gaussian Veils", which I've no idea what it means but sounds like some Greek linguistic variant on gossamer, a crepuscular rhythm is held together by stalking piano and the introduction of a ghostly choral voice. This is the stuff of legends. Pure transcendence, "springs of light, I chase upon your reach, this situ, a path of ideas I lose". The sound of it, just the sound of it! It is utterly doueur and utterly fantastic. The minor and augmented aeolian modes of the piano paint a haunted mid section to the record, and the spectral tones of the voice in question is like a magisterial tormented soul doing naked cabaret for the pleasure of Satan and his little elves.

Mick Buckingham

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