f(noir) had its hooks in me early. The first note pressed firmly on the piano hangs in the air for a second or two longer than we expect it should. The cavern that opens up between that note and all subsequent notes and wisps of breathy, wordless female vocals is a small, but precise incision into Seaman's loosely woven tapestry that tells us much of his intention on this record. An intention that seems rooted in exploring those pregnant pauses between notes deliberately played with extended intervals between them. It is somewhere in those spaces that this record becomes more about us. It is what we fill those spaces with.
This is a long album. Well over an hour, but it floats - cutting through time like a gigantic ocean trawler. It can seem forever frozen in a sea with no fixed horizon, but is eating up knots (units) at an incredible clip.
The interplay between improvisations on a forlorn piano - always somewhere outside of the composition - and bowed, droning strings, the bight-death maw of brass, the reedy, understated woodwinds, earthy, electronics and the omnipresent female wordless vocals contributed by Marissa Katrina Bergmann are coherent and consistent. Each composition feels as if it is scoring something dreadfully sad, something dreadfully sad and set in Eastern Europe. Omnipresent brushes of crackling tape manipulation and field recordings buried low in the mix hang over the record like a grey low cloud cover. Improvised piano lines, always a bit aloof, serve to either prick pin-sized holes through the porous covering or to send the composition further into the bittersweet nostalgia trip that this album inadvertently caused by the toning and phrasing of a single note.
There are some surprising moments that augment the record. The distortion-laden guitar drones on "Ending (part 2)" bring some welcome tension as well as the muted prepared piano on "A Dark Thought" with its ascendant trumpet lines filtering their through thick layers of concrete from the dingiest of maritime jazz clubs. This album is not a slab of monolithic ambient drone though, far from it, it's bleached bones are entirely visible as the supporting beams keeping the ark afloat. It functions more as a small ensemble piece, a tiny chamber orchestra feeling out infinite spaces between movements.
Eilean Records has quickly become a home of thoughtful, quiet experimental music produced at the highest calibre - and sometimes all I listen to.