The ellipses framing the title of Jameson Feakes’ debut solo album, …until… speak subtly but directly to the record’s formulation. Measured and understated, the negotiation of audio “content” against equally meaningful silence and space is at the core of each excursion here.
The title track, written by Clarence Barlow, paints a minimal arrangement of glassy resonances - by turns conventionally beautiful, and beautifully unconventional. Guitar notes with no beginning or end melt into a hovering sine tone over nineteen or so minutes: enough time to be fully absorbed into the unique, pared-back sound world.
Wandelweiser-group composer Eva-Maria Houben’s ‘Prelude,’ by contrast, offers a quick breath of utterances: acoustic chords gesturing towards a tonality or mood, equally alluding to the surrounding quietude, and rendered elegantly in Feakes’ perceptive style.
Whereas Barlow and Houben call for the carving away of all but a few sounds, ‘a window in Sicily’ by Josten Myburgh welcomes the world in by way of field recordings. These evanesce into high-end drones, intimate textures and clouds of noise, marking out a reflective space in which Myburgh and Feakes plumb the minutiae of sound, and the aesthetics of digital processing.
Another of Houben’s preludes bookends Myburgh’s piece, evincing a similar methodology as the first, but with fresh import after the half-hour journey that comprised ‘a window in Sicily.’
Finally, James Bradbury’s ‘Traced Over’ presents an ethereal dialogue between man and machine, with a computer revoicing and replaying bowed guitar improvisations moments after they occur. The improviser (Feakes) is obliged to respond to the computer’s additions and their interactions with live sound, thus creating a kind of compositional feedback loop where authorship is either increasingly blurred and shared, or carved away altogether.
Feakes’ record demonstrates a number of things - not least that his practice is actively engaged with new technologies and futuristic possibilities, yet rejects contemporary demands for small, saleable units of creativity and instant gratification. Like all of Tone List’s output so far, it’s both challenging and rewarding - working carefully, patiently, at the junction of conceptual rigour and playful sonic exploration.
- Lyndon Blue