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New Discoveries on Fallt

Maybe one of the reasons that 'space' is such an important quality in the music I love is that I've always linked the sounds I hear to geographical images. Someone out there might be able to psychoanalyze that, who knows.

Anyway, today, February 23rd 2004, a cold wintry day in Newcastle upon Tyne under a big blue sky. Whilst I work away on my PhD I have been engaged in some headphone listening to two of the most beautifully realized records I've heard in ages, music so attuned to the gentle frostiness outside that they may as well be an extension of that very environment. Both come courtesy of Northern Ireland's Fallt, a brilliant, under-exposed label that is as much about the visual production of its releases as artistic artifacts as the music.

The discs in question are, firstly, Komet's "Arc, Live", a recording of a gig in 2000. Frank Bretschneider (for it is he) originally turned me off big style. I thought his bleeping minimalism was about as interesting as a vinyl test tone. Now, though, I've well warmed to it, and this subtle, almost-invisible funk music is like tiny icicles forming at the far edge of a tree branch. Delicate though it is, at high volumes one imagines Bretschneider would shake the very walls of the venue with reverb.

The real find, though, is a live set by Hard Sleeper (the project of Dubliner Peter Maybury), an artist of whom I knew absolutely nothing prior to listening. Maybury is a friend of Donnacha Costello's and there are similarities between their music. Neither is interested in mathematical abstraction, using minimal approaches instead to tour the more melancholic side of the psyche. However, whilst Costello has a tendency to go for the gut in his wrenching instrumentals of a love lost, Maybury constructs something altogether more ethereal and sublime from tiny fragments of melody of detritus. His music brings to mind Shuttle358, but at a point where the music almost hovers on the very edge of existence. Tiny pops and crackles start to emerge from a bed of poignant tones in their very twilight, there-but-not-there, spectral apparitions of song. At the 11-minute mark a more profound melodic line starts to emerge, adding weight to, but never disrupting, the carefully crafted sense of serene stillness that characterizes this exceptional release.

Always great to come across someone unfamiliar and to fall in love with their music there and then. Particularly when the low sunbeams shining through the blind in the room seem utterly at one with the sounds in one's ears. After retreating back into near-silence, the piece comes alive again towards the end.

John Gibson
grooves / senior editor