29 July 2014 (New Amsterdam Records)
The closer a critique comes to bathing the proper light upon a subject, the more simplistic and encompassing the questions become. To fundamentally understand the root of an idea, the conception point must be found. Contrary to the natural art of specifying, refined approaches do not actually attain the desired results, thus the broader path of buffing out the edges must be endured to find the true beginning. At this point something so simple as deciding whether the technique developed from a minimalist mindset or an overblown maximalist approach will point in the direction of the true center. What you will tend to find, as I myself have in the past, is that the closer the center seems, the more elusive it really is. In fact, the beginning is an arbitrary resting point in the grand scheme of things and tends to relocate itself when necessity calls the loudest. And so it could be concluded that when minimalism seems to be the screamingly obvious answer, that is where you will find the true complexity in the music.
I experienced this paradox earlier this summer at a live performance by Total Life. What started as monotone oscillation noise, built into somewhere around eight tones and harmonic pitches created by dissonance. What appeared to be one of the most simplistic and minimalist performances I had seen to date had grown into something so massive it was hard to comprehend every part at the same time. This is the delicate and ever-changing line between nothing and everything pushed to the extreme. No Lands album, Negative Space, is not as severe of an example as True Life, but it is a more powerful one.
Negative Space is a term that lends itself to literal interpretation. That being said, the album is not sound juxtaposed against silence, it is so much more. Hailed as a sound designer, Michael Hammond expresses his dexterity with sound in every way possible. He takes ideas from any and every genre and blends them into one of the finest pieces of the year. Each sound is deliberately placed. This is the opposite of chaos; it is order to a meticulous level. Some sound artists design and construct every aspect of their work to the point of no clear origin, but Hammond is able to integrate this concept into more traditional forms of music.
Hammond flirts with the ideas and song structures of indie rock and minimalist electronic, but these could not be further from accurate descriptions of what he does. Manipulated guitar work dances around the haunting decay of vocals but what holds everything together is Hammond’s iron fist wrapped around every single little aspect of the audio structure. The origins of the sound become obsolete when Hammond gets a hold of them. It is one cohesive structure with no reason or need to be picked apart.
The circular cycle of maximalist composition and minimalism is hazy with Negative Space; there is no clear line to cross. The sheer weight of every purposely-placed sonic addition creates a monstrosity that is mesmerizing to look at from afar, but on a closer inspection it starts to appear as if the beauty is in the simplicity. As with much in life, the angle of interpretation sheds unique viewpoints on different features of Negative Space, whether it is the sonic texture or the musical composition itself.
Negative Space is a living, breathing, changing environment. Each listen provides a look at a different corner of the same space, a space that can only be found if you look at the chasm between silence and noise.
Rating: Loved It