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The Shell That Speaks The Sea (vinyl LP)

David Toop, Lawrence English - The Shell That Speaks The Sea (vinyl LP)
English and Toop first met 20 years ago and the two have long maintained similar ideas about the potential physicality of music. "The Shell that Speaks the Sea" is a realisation of that years-long conversation, with results that articulate Toop's long held sound vision (here executed with his own voice, electric and lapsteel guitars, whistling, percussion, flutes and electronics) around English's stunning recordings of various insects, birds and exotic animals, such as the Tawny Frogmouth, an elusive creature whose voice is like a modulating low frequency oscillator.
The duo clearly revel in the uncanny, combining those field recordings with unusual textural diversions and shortwave interference, like a more ambiguous parallel to Jon Hassell's fourth world modelling. Windy field recordings draw us into "Abyssal Tracker", accompanied by synths and wavering percussion. Somewhere in the distance, Toop's quietly deranged whispers offer a sort of ASMR gore component, far too possessed to sooth the brain. The process is evolved on "Mouth Cave", with moonlit cricket chirps underpinning ghost flute and bass drum rolls; widescreen and lavishly engineered, the track builds a soundworld that's so physical you can almost see it render before your eyes.
Their more direct tracks play decisively with gothic horror: "Whistling in the Dark" is a luxuriously experimental chiller that matches Toop's nonchalant whistles with gong hits and eerie, high pitched synth strings; and "The Chair's Story" is as faded and grim as Thomas Köner's early work, with Toop sounding like a possessed Graham Lambkin or Holger Czukay, whose cult Les Vampyrettes echoes through the album like a distant omen. As proceedings draw to a close, the two refine and elevate, "Huanghu" is a stunning piece of multi-dimensional Gamelan, like some 4D rendition of Autrechre's Confield played out in your dreams, and "The Tattooed Back" sets flute vapours against vibrant, hyperreal rainforest detritus.
Born near London in 1949, David Toop is a musician, writer and sound curator. He has published three books, numerous solo albums since his first album released on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975, curated five CD compilations, composed the soundtrack for an outdoor spectacular under Lisbon Expo '98, recorded shamanistic ceremonies in Amazonas. He worked with musicians including Brian Eno, John Zorn, Prince Far I, Jon Hassell, Derek Bailey, Talvin Singh, Evan Parker, Max Eastley, Scanner, Ivor Cutler, Haruomi Hosono, Jin Hi Kim and Bill Laswell, and collaborated with artists from many other disciplines, including theatre director/actor Steven Berkoff, Japanese Butoh dancer Mitsutaka Ishii, sound poet Bob Cobbing, visual artist John Latham, filmmaker Jae-eun Choi and author Jeff Noon.
As a critic and columnist he has written for many publications, including The Wire, The Face, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Arena, Vogue, Spin, GQ, Bookforum, Urb, Black Book, The New York Times and The Village Voice.
Lawrence English (born 1976) is composer, artist and curator based in Australia. Working across an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations, English's work prompts questions of field, perception and memory. He investigates the politics of perception, through live performance and installation, to create works that ponder subtle transformations of space and ask audiences to become aware of that which exists at the edge of perception.
Lawrence English is the director of the imprint Room40, started in 2000.
published in November 2023
31.00 25.50
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