13 October 2010

Shaula - haze (2009, Under The Spire)

A dreary landscape and glum face pictures of the artist, Shaula build around herself an aura of mystery and misery, with dryness, asceticism and minimalism. 

She is Japanese and doesn't belong to a particular artistic clan or local community and if we look at her favorite friendlist on myspace, she is a listener of typical post-rock (from Mogwai to Sigur Ros, from Jesu to Nadja, from Mono to Balmorhea) which could explain the coldness of her music, with an inclination towards ambient /electronic stuff with Basinski or Fennesz, which could be felt in the very personal investment of her music, the intimate and strong subjective dimension. 

 But all these names are not sufficient to resume and describe her music, far more subtle and particular as there is always a positive or negative gap between influences and composition and here the gap would be mostly positive on these first published steps, made of instrumental electro-acoustic drones tracks mixed with discrete field recordings layers in the background.

If I refer to her definition, she works with atmospheres and repeated loops as a way to capture her inspiration and her relation with the cyclic nature of a transitory life in general, no matter the scale you'll consider.

Even if it is a low scale release (150 copies), Under The Spire is probably one of the most adequate place for such music, as with their counterpart Hibernate Records, they become efficient pioneers for the publication and defense of a new emerging ambient scene.

"Haze" is not what I would call a love at first sight, and on a certain perspective, compared with the achievement of more experienced artistic peers, it is mostly a work in progress, and maybe later it will be considered as early works. The opening track is, as example, just gloomy, and all I can picture in mind is the vision of water percolating on the surface of a moss covered rock, somewhere in a dark forest, during winter. Not so exciting.
But if you reach track n°2, "A Butterfly Deposit", fragile and celestial rays of sun finally touch your face and warm your frozen heart. Of course this use of loops will recall William Basinski composition but the similarity is just superficial and the sensitivity is different. There are tiny lights in the core of this track and they walk with you through cold winter weather during these ten minutes. You wake up with uneasiness and you force yourself on your way to work, keeping hold of later hopes. I think it is also the perfect background when you are in the middle of nowhere and it starts pouring down. 

"ÿþ0" is really dark and depressive, I feel like laying on my bed, one rainy afternoon, unable to fall asleep or to move, lost in my thoughts, with the comforting delicacy of her composition. Though musically they are nowhere close, her darkness puts in in moods similar to the ones I experiences on Matt Elliott records.
"Under a palpebra" would be the original soundtrack for deep sleep as not much happens except the slow deposit of dust.  "Whisper Of Old Trees" is like the ghost of a shoegazer song, a fragment of melody stuck in memory, like if William Basinski was using a slowly decaying tape loop of My Bloody Valentine for a very engaging result, certainly a direction to develop for Shaula for a result not so far from what made Belong directly legendary after their debut album. 

The next track seems directly more usual, stranded on sandbank, "Ghost Of Me" with floating guitar sounds on a loop of vinyl cracking noises, and the album ends on a transparent monochromatic "Sea of trees" which leaves no traces in mind.

As the track announces, the whole album seems suspended in haze and while not convincing as a whole it offers many promising directions I hope Shaula will be able to explore, dig more beauty from it and expose it to the light of the day.


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