Ambient Bliss: Adrian Shenton – Houseworks

Artist: Adrian Shenton

Title: Houseworks

Released: 2009

Label: Phonospheric

Format: CDr (limited edition of 50)

Genre: Ambient, dark ambient drone, musique concrete, experimental

As is oftentimes the case, I stumble onto interesting artists/bands and labels by chance on the net and even if they’ve been around for a while, they’re so new to me that I want to find out all I can about them.  Usually, by the time I find them, many of the early releases are out of print or the label isn’t really active.  Luckily, Phonospheric is still active and still has its first releases in stock.

So here is the first release: “Houseworks” is by label founder and artist Adrian Shenton who had just released one album prior, entitled, “The Measuring of Moments” on the Quiet World label in 2008.  Since then, he’s released two other albums, one of which is in collaboration with Banks Baily.

This album is a vast exploration of sound.  Tracks tinker with a multitude of source material from recordings of birds and textured and manipulated drips and taps, to manipulated and tweaked hums and buzzes from all sorts of things both mechanical and organic.  At times, these sounds layer themselves together and create rhythmic patterns.  In a sense man, nature, and the machine are all in synch with each other.  This is most evident on the third track, “The Kitchen Has a Point of View.”

“Househum” is a loud hum, as the name suggests.  Trust me, it’s pretty mind blowing.  I picture myself laying on the floor at 3am and suddenly being aware of the various hums and the din of every machine, appliance or electrical current in my apartment and then realizing that it joined in a grand chorus of hums from around the entire apartment complex.  Did I mention this is the third longest track on the album?  It’s intense.  Really intense!

Things return to a calmer state on “When Swoosh Come to Shove.”  There’s still quite an array of found sounds from the surrounding environment sewn into the track but there’s more of a gentle melody here.  It’s a welcomed bit of peace with a soft, hissing rhythm dotting in the background alongside meditative synth.

A very low frequency hum vibrates through the floor on the next track as a chilling metallic clang echoes from just out of sight.  This track certainly starts off eerily and it makes the first few tracks seem warm by comparison.  This wasn’t the best track to play on my stereo at 2am as it was shaking the floor; I’m sure my neighbors love me.  In light of that, plugging in a set of earphones gives this a whole new experience. Take my word for it.  It’s wild.  It’s dark.  I love it.  For a track that is so minimal, it’s extremely engaging, especially as it slowly builds itself up over its nearly thirteen minute expanse.

The last track is the longest piece, clocking in at just a tad over fifteen minutes.  It’s by far the darkest piece on the album.  It opens quietly with numerous haunting synth samples that are so minimal that they feel light years away. That’s not to say you don’t notice them, because you can’t help but notice them.  They give the feeling that all that’s familiar and safe is far, far away and you’re in a very dark and somewhat frightening place.  This becomes more evident as chimes, pops, clangs and thuds begin to come into earshot.  It is like something(s) is stirring out there in the dark landscape and you can’t see what it is.  As the title of this piece suggests, you’re on a journey home, and this track accomplishes its goal of making it a truly haunting experience.

The final track at times almost feels like a space ambient peace but it’s mixed with many bits of manipulated found sounds.  It could also work as a dark ambient piece or a musique concrete piece.  Either way, I love it.  These last two tracks have really pushed the boundaries of my imagination and that’s something I really enjoy about ambient music and the various subgenres thereof.  It’s engaging and this album excels in that respect.

Should you buy this?  Hell yeah.  This album falls into our Ambient Bliss series effortlessly but it’s so much more than an ambient record.  It’s not afraid to get noisy and it’s not afraid to quiet down again and create deeper soundscapes.  Fans of Mystified, Arthur Dent/Deeper Than Space, Laswell/Sharp, and Celer will love this.  I was more than impressed by this album and I am pleased to say there are more copies available on the label’s shop page.

4.9 out of 5.

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About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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