Monday, October 5, 2015

Orchestra Terrestrial: Here and Everywhere

Recorded sporadically over 2000 and the early part of 2001, this ambient release on the small underground German label, Die Stadt, by Richard H. Kirk under his Orchestra Terrestrial guise is a beautiful and beguiling work.  Kirk has stated that inspiration from classical music led him to pursue this project, which includes a 2011 followup called Umladen.

The first track, "Low Definition Alpine Drift," is a haunting tune of multi-layered electronic sound moving rhythmically but without percussion as the piece, indeed, drifts in unsettled, yet beautiful atmospheres.

"Einflug" (German for "entry" in the sense of aircraft entering and leaving an airport or airfield) does, however, have a percussive element, an echoed electronic pulse over a higher-pitched drone and a legato series of tones before a darker, more sinister drone enters in on occasion.

"Kristall" ("Crystal") has another complex multi-layered series of grouped tones and simple percussive elements at various pitches.  The piece almost takes the listener on an uncharted journey.  There is a stronger, faster sense of rhythm here for most of the piece, though there is an interlude that mainly features drones.  A flute-like melodic theme gives more buyoancy to this track than others on the recording.

"Abends" ("Evenings") is a very muted and simple piece at the outset with a dreamy six-tone theme that is echoed by a sustained tone in another track, with these repeating until a very quiet series of tones and drones comes in at about 1:30.  At about 2:30 a more direct, louder drone enters, demonstrating Kirk's knack for carefully layering sound to broaden and deepen his pieces.  At around 3:50, there seems to be a processed snippet of a symphonic classical piece that lends an ominous element.  This track is a fine counterpoint to "Kristall."

"Glitzerstrahl" (which appears to mean something like a flittering ray of light) repeats a common thematic element, laid out in a repetitive three-toned manner, with a slow descending series of tones intermingled.  Later, there are a variety of disparate elements, some light percussive sounds, drones, clustered tones and more processed orchestral snippets to break up the repetition.

In "Near Earth Object," there is more of a percussive feel here, with cymbal-like sounds, scratchy paired snare-like "taps" and others to follow drones with varying textures.  There's even a bit of guitar-type sounds in the piece and more of what appears to be those processed recordings of orchestral performances.  A nifty seven-tone thematic element is added to the mix later in the piece.

"Senses and Functions" has a four-tone percussive theme with sharp but quiet cymbal washes and louder percussive components to create a compelling and rhythmical foundation.  A sustained wash of electronic sound comes in at about 1:20 and it rises and falls continuously until another recorded snippet of symphonic music comes in and out.  A two-toned element, followed by a louder single-tone repetition and a louder, sprouting drones enter in with some percussion, another stellar example of Kirk's way of developing complex, multi-layered soundscapes.

The last track, "Uniform Spaces," is mainly an example of the highly-arpeggiated work that he further developed years later on his Richard H. Kirk and the Arpeggio 13 recording, Anonymized, also from 2011.  The various themes, rhythmic and percussive elements, and recorded snippets found elsewhere on the album are processed through that arpeggiated mix.  While it might seem out of place, this track also reminds me of what Kirk did with the experimental Cabaret Voltaire remix "C.O.M.A." in the mid-Eighties, but with different tools.

Here and Everywhere is one of the most interesting, carefully-constructed and fully-developed ambient recordings this listener considers Richard H. Kirk has done in his long and varied career.  It has been a steady favorite for nearly fifteen years.  A word should also be said about the remarkable packaging by The Designers Republic, which includes a half-dozen postcards of digital art works by Naked Art.  In dark gray, with light gray lettering, the paper gatefold sleeve elegantly echoes the music and the cards are distinctive, reflecting the care and consideration put into this remarkable recording.

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