Philip Sulidae – Banish

28/06/2011

Philip Sulidae

Banish [44:16]

found sounds, field recordings, sampler

Released on Mystery Sea, CDR ltd to 100 numbered copies

I recently reviewed two fine releases on Daniel Crokaert’s Unfathomless label. Daniel also runs Mystery Sea, which like Unfathomless is a themed label. So one way into Australian Philip Sulidae’s Banish would be to figure out how he goes about addressing the label’s mission or aesthetic which runs as follows:-

…..a vehicle for revealing highly immersive music,
soundmantras making us connect with our innermost selves
& get in touch with an evanescent reality far beyond words…

…black seas of mystery, rolling out their infinite waves…
echoes inhaling the stellar breath…
this is a mirrored journey, an endless refraction of our labyrinthine minds
& spiralling emotions…

So there you have it – a highly imaginative fantasy world with profound psychological resonances.

This is reinforced by what the artist has to say about his work, summarised here:-

Banish” reconciles us
with our inner flux,
a nameless pulse,
the Unexplained…
let your perception alter, and grow along an enhanced reality…

Then there’s the work itself, five tracks of what I would say touches on the dark ambient. I’ve heard music like this before, characterised by dense textures, quasi-tonal intrusions (you’ll hear what I mean if you buy the album), repetitive waves of sound with slow modulations of various kinds. It’s the sort of immersive music where you lie flat out, let it soak in and figure out if it all works for you.

Track 1, VKO, foregrounds a big low frequency indeterminate sound, repetitive, like a muffled foghorn, or possibly a train passing through the room. It is highly musical across a range of parameters, composed with an electroacoustic sensibility. The ebb and flow of large waves of sound are evident early on, becoming a strong characteristic of the whole album and possibly addressing the theme directly, as in waves of sound breaking over the listener. Possibly.

Two points here: I should note that one reviewer suggests that some or all of the album was recorded on a boat. I can’t find any reference to this anywhere else but I’ll take his word for it. Who knows? Secondly, I couldn’t tell where track 2, Judge and Clerk Islets, stopped and track 3, Bishop and Clerk Islets, began. There seems to be a glitchy dropout between the two tracks, an odd moment in an otherwise finely edited album.

We are introduced to a range of environmental sound: birds, machines, very rich in surface detail, but not over sweet and creamy (like marshmallows in your hot chocolate). Again the music settles quickly into waves, large quantum packets of sound. By way of contrast a musical tonal(ish) drone pokes through the low mid end of the spectrum, tipping the mood or style of the unfolding work towards the filmic, reinforced later by hissy repetitive sounds against a busy not quite foregrounded high frequency crackling texture. There is much to be admired in the balance and the pace of the emerging abstract narrative. Occasionally the repetitiveness and film-sound atmosphere (alien/sci-fi film sound) left me wondering where we were going, or indeed if we were going anywhere at all, but this is perhaps the whole point of ambient music, if this is what we have here. Before monotony sets in, however, the soundscape opens out beautifully, like mist clearing, giving way as suddenly to a measure of confusion with contradictory reverberated spaces, trains (?) again, movement, a sudden dropout.

This sound that I think is like a train (or perhaps it’s a ship) becomes quite dominant, like a signature sound, even if it seems to be in the background, if that makes sense. I had the impression of one or more enormous vehicles of some sort slowing down, or stuck idling in neutral. All of which is well contrasted with a steady textural passage towards the end, where the captivating and engaging material might be the result of human intervention. For a real treat have a close listen on headphones to enjoy the wealth of gestural detail in the background, very impressively mixed. I think I finally caught a flavour of some real sea at the end (of track 4).

Overall, my reading of these two tracks is that they give off numerous quasi-narrative hints, but I was left wondering whether the sounds are of sufficient interest to sustain the emerging narrative, whether some of the waves go on for their own sake, not a problem per se, but confusing for obsessive compulsives like me.

Track 4, Bouvet, works with the same film music sounds as before, placed behind various field recordings, and offering a wonderful sense of spaciousness if not location. I’d have set this one going to Tarkovsky’s Solaris for an interesting treat. With the loops set in motion, the careful layering, the sense of patience and deliberation and finally the linear form, this comes over as a well composed piece with strong sonic, if perhaps not conceptual, interest.

The last track, Fata Morgana (a kind of mirage), is similar in many ways to Bouvet. Again the listener will be rewarded with close listening for hidden detail: various crackles, machine hisses and pops, suggesting comparisons with textile manufacture – strands woven together, different colours and fabrics offering quite a living tapestry of sound.

After all that what I’m left with is the feeling that Philip Sulidae’s originality lies in his gentle touch, like an instrumentalist who surprises you with the delicacy of their playing, like Bartok, apparently, at the piano.


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