MONTY ADKINS: Four Shibusa (Audiobulb Records)


Posted on Apr 25th 2012 01:05 am

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Monty Adkins: Four Shibusa

Four Shibusa
Audiobulb Records 2012
04 Tracks. 43mins22secs

Over the course of his career, which spans over nigh on twenty years, British composer and sound artist Monty Adkins has progressively stripped down his sonic spaces to now work with an extremely restricted palette from which he draws deeply atmospheric minimal compositions. His work has led him to create music for art installations and answer commissions from choreographer Wayne McGregor, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival or the prestigious INA-GRM in Paris. He has also collaborated with a vast number of artists, including AGF, Mira Calix, Vladislav Delay, Tim Hecker, Robin Rimbaud or Christian Fennesz, and has released five solo albums.

Four Shibusa is the result of a year-long collaboration with long-term friend and visual artist Pip Dickens, based on the Japanese principles of ‘shibusa’, which focuses on simple, beautiful aesthetic in everyday objects. This clean approach however often hides a high level of sophistication, a description which suits Adkins’s work rather well. Both Adkins and Dickens have been partly influenced by elements of Japanese culture, so this project, which also encompassed an exhibitions of Dickens’s paintings inspired by the time she spent doing some research in Kyoto last year, and a book, Shibusa – Extracting Beauty, published by The University Of Huddersfield Press, appears as a natural evolution in both their careers.

Musically, Four Shibusa is extremely stripped down and minimal. Adkins’s slow progressive soundscapes remain for the most part simple textural backdrops over which clarinetists Heather Roche and Jonathan Sage build a series of refined motifs, at times taking it in turn to lead, at others harmonising or circling around each other as if they were observing each other’s movements. On occasions, Adkins appears to withdraw almost entirely to let them take control of a piece for at least part of it. Yet, even in those moment, his presence remains palpable.

There is a strong sonic continuity through the whole record as Adkins keeps the focus on his deeply atmospheric soundscapes, at times crossed by tiny bursts of bubbling statics, ghostly found sounds or occasional richer tones. All four tracks, while existing individually from each other, are intricately linked and stem from the same sound pool as Adkins carries most of his rarefied components from Sendai Threnody to the dying moments of Permutations. Equally, Heather Roche and Jonathan Sage appear on all four tracks, but like Adkins’s, their presence ebbs and flows as to provide greater depth and fluidity. It is their two clarinet which opens proceedings here, and for a while, they continue to echo each other as Adkins remains extremely discreet for almost half of the piece. Their contributions, like that of Adkins, remains sonically pretty consistent through the entire record, the only clear alteration being regular shifts of register. More than a great variety of sounds, this album relies of the multitude of combinations between Adkins’s electronic textures and the two clarinets to create a vibrant space.

Monty Adkins’s second offering for Audiobulb is a somewhat sparse yet haunting and dense soundtrack which, like shibusa itself, aims at simple, beautiful sonic structures. Repeat listens however reveal fascinating details – found sounds, particular interaction between instruments – which give this record its inherent depth.


Monty Adkins | Pip Dickens | Audiobulb Records

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