“Happiness Will Befall” reviewed by Noripcord

The sound of Lawrence English’s most recent solo recording is a polar journey between the harsh yet compelling sounds of dedicatedly minimalist computer music and the subtle organicism of post-classical instrumentalists. Another way of expressing this bicephalous creation is to say that his music sounds a lot like ambient works by Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and others, but for very different musical reasons.

Based in Brisbane, English is a writer, musician and media artist, a renaissance man and master of several trades. His recent works have included the installation Ghost Towns, production for Japan’s avant-pop star Tujiko Noriko and Australian noise merchants the Rational Academy, and compositions for the new music ensemble Elision. Orientation for the first-time listener can be found in his collaborations with David Toop, one of today’s most important theorists, composers and collators of computer music. Production and cinematography are important strands in Lawrence’s work; the former seems to inspire the precision and even coldness of certain digital elements in his work, while the latter describes the sonic space-time his work traces: seascapes, windswept plains, the higher reaches of the weather-sphere.

Geography and landscape are indeed important features and themes of English’s work; he composed Happiness will befall after journeys around the Asia-Pacific region, and digitised marine and transport noises offer the heart of tracks like Parallel (midgap), alongside a suggestion of languages not comprehended by the traveller, to be found in subtly communicative percussive sounds. The sea portrayed through static dominates on Two weeks I’ll never have again, a sound that Black Dice would produce were they to relax, yet accompanied by, or rather set in counterpoint to, a cello line that would not disgrace one of Max Richter’s chamber compositions. Within confines of glass stresses the other pole, being the sonic equivalent of silicone scraping and shifting. Relocated (UTC) stands in further contrast, being quiet, reflective and possessing something of the product of Deep Blue’s experiment with oversized wind chimes. Not for nothing have some commentators suggested that English’s work would suit a Tarkovsky soundtrack, for it captures perfectly the time-image of the Russian director’s static, meditative takes.

If one were to imagine Mira Calix’s music without the compulsion to itch, or Headphone with only one musician, or at least only one musician making the decisions, one would be approaching Happiness will befall. For computer music purists, there may perhaps be too much organic interference; for instrumental minimalists, perhaps an excess of digital sharpness; I, however, found myself rather at ease in English’s world. 7/10

Ben Bollig

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