Quiet City is a notable recording for its successful marriage
of electronic and organic instrumentation. On this recording, Mark Nelson who
imbued the prominent Labradford with much of their trademark drone aesthetic,
looping guitar effects and long
keyboard passages with snippets of barely-audible voice and assorted found objects is
able to create a
fluid, living sound that may no longer be "electronic" according to all
cold machine stereotypes, nor "organic" in the sense of being the effect
of a live recital on traditional instruments.
Indeed, on Quiet City, Nelson escapes from the womb of
dub-infected throbs and mite-like rustlings in which he seemed hopelessly wedged
previous outings. For the moment, Nelson would seem
to have found similar lodgings in an eerie dark ambient space that
weaves muffled electronics and stately organic sound sources (such as organ,
trumpet) with funeral tempos and grave moods. Quiet
City is a deft display of intense stasis where submerged melodic
fragments poke through smears of high-frequency noise and scratchy delay
On the concise "Before," with a clean chiming guitar hobbling into a light
spell of salty digital hailstones, Nelson plants his gruff poetic whisper.
"Smallholding" furthers the stormy theme with a nimble electronic patter
that sounds like raindrops falling down on a metal window ledge. An austere
drone emerges alongside rumbling drums and flitting background noises that
mimic the action of a faltering boat propeller slapping against the water.
All of this is engulfed in a hissing static until a resonant hum drifts into
Among the streaked synthesizer splutters and sharp high drones of "Hall and
Skylight," the melancholy European hues conveyed by David Max Crawford's
breathy sax and Tim Mulvennas' propulsive drumming (both are contributors to
free-jazz groups the Sinister Luck Ensemble and the Vandermark Five) add a
variation that was absent on
efforts. Similarly, on "Inside Elevation," lethargic European guitar-plucking
melodica tread through a dense
fog of perturbed ambiance, while sporadically slashed at by digital stitches
from an unseen party.
This is "visual" music that evokes walks through ghost towns now swallowed
up by clouds of dust that swim through eroding brick as the trekker,
listening to it all crumble, searches the rubble for some sign of life.
Nelson demonstrates patience by withholding Quiet City's best compositions
until last. As they lace gossamer threads of melody throughout "Retouch,"
aquatic keyboard patterns perform a waltz around Crawford's rough flugelhorn
cries. "Christo en Pilsen" also finds Quiet City perched atop its summit; rhythms chatter and flutter through this iridescent
structure, a lullaby of sorts sung by echoing acoustic guitar and quivering
electronic chirps. An album of distorted tone clusters, occasionally showered by
dissonance, Quiet City finds quiet charms in fading memories.