CNVR15 | 14.09.2007
format: CDR | packaging: discbox slider
duration: 47 minutes, 1 track
limited to 100 numbered copies
Somatic is a mixture of sounds sourced from field recordings that were taken mostly in Spain and Turkey, Cello, Voice, other instruments and various manipulated objects; for example a large sheet of plastic glass. The resulting drones and textures are fused together to try and create an effective mix of abstracted phonography and more melodic instrumental movements.
Somatic means “of, relating to, or affecting the body; corporeal or physical”. I felt this title particularly suited the work due to its more tangible, telluric, or earthly quality. Recent releases such as ‘chroma’, have looked upwards and beyond the confines of our normal horizons, whereas Somatic mirrors and reinterprets more conventional surroundings.
Early working titles were based around the idea of being “without eyes” or “without image” and this original concept was carried through with the sleeve design. The focus is on the act of listening away from additional stimuli, leaving the listener to create their own unique interpretations.
liner notes by Paul Bradley
This is one of those sonic sculptors whom I’ve always felt as totally honest even if he moves in a musical jungle where getting trapped by the quicksand of banality is fairly easy. To have an idea of Paul’s efforts to avoid such deplorable methods (which usually go “buy me the latest synthesizer, change a wave shape in the 01 preset, supplement with heavy reverberation, burn 100 CDRs and sell them”), just think that I realized about the exclusive use of guitars in (several of his) records only after the man himself told me. They were more or less unidentifiable to my ears, the ones of a guitarist…That should tell a lot (OK, who whispered “about you”?). In recent times, Bradley has added field recordings and different sources to the music yet the beauty of these presentations remains intact, “Somatic” fully reinforcing the theory. The basis for this long track, roughly divided into three movements, are environmental elements from Spain and Turkey, voice, other instruments and various manipulated objects. Bradley processed the main origins fusing the results in his customary brew of resonant drones and entrancing aural depictions, this time reinforced and complemented by those “extraneous” interferences from the real life that do nothing but add a touch of vividness to an already beguiling soundscape. Particular relevance must be attributed to the third and final section where, from a mournful female chant, a transcendent state of stupor based on a harmonically suspended chord takes shape to wrap our crumbling security in the cocoon of an apparent comfortableness, which fizzles out as soon as the record’s over. One of the very best releases in this English artist’s prolific career.
[ Massimo Ricci ]
The handshake between Paul Bradley and Miguel A. Tolosa was an obvious one in a certain sense. Both artists share a love for pure drones and for deep, smooth textures undulating through the filter modulations of an invisible hand, as well as a similar sense of dreamtime development. When Tolosa released “spectra” on Bradley*s “Twenty Hertz” imprint, therefore, this mainly went to emphasise the closeness of their approaches, despite the obviously diverging methods of arranging their material.
The story with “Somatic” is a different one, however, as it proves that they still have a lot to give to each other artistically and that their styles are strongly susceptible for mutual pollination.
Having said that, the album opens with what constitutes the most classic Bradley-drone we’ve heard from him in a while after he broke his music into colourful shardes of glass on “memorias extranjeras” and lent warm earth tones to it on “Chroma”. For over twenty minutes, a gently piercing, serenely tranquil harmony hovers in the air, transformed only in frequency, stoic and static in its timbre and its direction. There are certainly few other composers out there who can turn the absolute lack of external development into such a breathtaking and majestic experience as Bradley.
This is not where the track ends, however, as the sequence is continually penetrated by fireplace crackles, delicately howling winds and airy whispers as well as a cello playing in a barely audible, high-pitched flageolet. After a stretch of silence, which he uses to both calm things down and to further increase the tension, he then builds the piece in reverse order, beginning with irrecognisable field recordings moulded into ghostly ambiances and then allowing soothing drones in again for a hymnic finale.
Once again, the dichotomy between that which scareth and that which healeth is a red thread. Bradley’s music is so reduced to the most elemental paremeters, that it approximates a force of nature in its own right. And just like a storm can both be a beautiful and a terrible thing to taste, his fearful fen lights, sonic aurora borealis and glistening waters take the ear to places it recognises as deformed Jung’ean archetypes.
Also, his continuing, and often overlooked, efforts to bring structure to a world deemed amorphic have left a mark on “Somatic”. Because these harmonic sheets and non-descriptive, concrete sounds are miles from traditional concepts of themes, motives and variations, the mind assumes they can not be combined into epic compositions with non-linear narratives, but a clear sense of coherence. And yet Bradley manages just that, he creates the sensation of closedness by careful selection of his source material and clever seguing.
The inclusion of microtonal particles and of spontaneously taped semblances clearly sets “Somatic” apart from anything he’s previously done. The drones soar even higher, reverberate even deeper thanks to the contrasting middle section and the piece as a whole is more provocative, associative and even disturbing.
For once, one finds oneself in an unsettling situation with Paul Bradley, instead of being allowed to drift in his hot bath tub. And maybe we have to thank the artistic alliance with Migual A. Tolosa, on whose Con-V label this is published, for that.
[ Tobias Fischer ]
Wonderful Wooden Reasons
This beautifully packaged CDR on the predominantly web-based label Con-V is the latest in a string of fine releases from Paul Bradley. This is new(ish) territory for Paul as the delicate wash of his tonal pallette is here augmented by layers of grimy and gritty field recordings. The whole feels significantly less 'airy' than is often the case with a much more textural and tactile quality. Here it seems that the intention of the music is to bypass any somnolent ambient characteristics inherent in the drones by the inclusion of elements (both sonic and structural) that, almost, forcibly engage the listener. One is compelled to stay alert to the flow of the music unable to divert one's attention from this fascinating construction even if one should be so asinine as to actually want to.
[ Ian ]
The imageless, unadorned, white cardboard slipcase that houses Somatic coupled with the initial placid, iridescent drone, give some idea as to why the early working titles of the album were “without eyes” and “without image”.
It's always exciting to me when Conv releases a new limited edition CD-R, because I know that I can expect only the best in experimental sound art. Paul Bradley's new release is no exception, and it's a welcome addition to the label's steadily growing discography of excellent CD-R releases.
The liner notes sum up Somatic quite accurately describing it as a blend of “abstracted phonography” and “melodic instrumental movements” where the focus is on the “act of listening” encouraging the listener to “create their own unique interpretations”. The obvious evidence of field recordings and melodious instrumentation in the piece give the composition its “earthy quality”, however, there are moments when the heavy processing/manipulation of these natural noises carry it to such a level of abstraction that the source sounds become disembodied remnants of the originals.
Somatic appears to have three movements within its extended duration (47:03) all born of field recordings, manipulated sounds, and various musical instruments. The first movement (up to about 19:00) is a continuous, shimmering, harmonious drone of viscous tones on top of which a variety of aural textures are carefully added. Random slivers of static and crackles along with recurring wisps of fizzy noise gradually find their way into the droning piece followed later by fragments of choral-like voices. Part 1 ends as the wavering, pleasant drone fades and transistions into a rather lengthy muted cacophony of dense instrumentation which shortly evolves into a thick, sometimes bubbling, mesh of abstract sounds ranging from relatively subdued to quite raucous (19:00 - 32:39). At 32:40, the abstract harshness abruptly ends and gentle, haunting voices arrive paving the way for a final round of a series of beautiful, deep, resonant drones.
All in all, Somatic offers a powerful fusion of organic ambiance with manipulated sounds that will appeal to lovers of either the concrete or abstract varieties of sound art allowing each to fashion his/her own understanding of the piece.
[ Larry Johnson ]
After playing music all day, at night I want to sleep and I don't need music while I'm asleep. I am not sure if Paul Bradley's 'Somatic' release is intended for use while awake or asleep. But safe to say I heard it when I was firmly awake (well, I think). Maybe it refers to the point of day when it was recorded, or it uses field recordings taped at night? We are not told. Bradley is one of the drone masters from the UK, with a long line of releases behind his name, mainly on his own Twenty Hertz label, but also on Mystery Sea and Alluvial. I think he's well aware of the traps of drone music and that he's not so keen on producing works that may sound too similar. Thumbs up for that. The backbone of this piece is of course the mighty drone, organ like (but apparently cello, voice and objects are used), fed to a resonator or two, to get a variety of pitches. On top there is some sort of rain fall sounds, which are very much on top of things, giving a nice crackling sound, which is what breaks this away from the normal drone routine. The other, if partly only, difference is that Bradley works through three distinctly different passages. It makes a great release. Changes or progression in drone might not be easy, but it's possible.
[ Frans de Waard ]
CON-V EDITION | 2015