Published on 1st November 2019
Darkroom – The Noise Is Unrest
There is less time than there used to be. In these days of constant demands on our waking hours, instant communications, the endless frantic rush, it is hard to find the time to sit down and properly listen to an album. When you choose to “dance about architecture” as a hobby, that temporal window becomes ever more difficult to find, as the never-dwindling number of releases one has to sift through grows larger by the day, or so it seems.
When this reviewer took on The Noise Is Unrest by guitarist Michael Bearpark’s (no-man, Henry Fool, Tim Bowness) and audio software designer and soundscape artist Andrew Ostler’s cinematic ambient project Darkroom, he knew what he was letting himself in for, the fool! You see, this album clocks in at well past the three-hour mark, making a complete sit-through nigh on impossible. The compromise I reached was to listen to it 90 minutes or so at a time, in order to get a grip on its sprawling cosmic drift, and I’m glad I did.
The album title alludes to an unsettling undercurrent of unease, commensurate with the edgy times in which we currently live. Without getting overtly angular, The Noise Is Unrest uses Michael’s looped and treated guitar as a subtle instrument of implied trauma over Andrew’s soundscapes. Kicking off with Once Proud Eyes/Oumuamua, incremental waves of sonic disturbance resolve into a simple but menacing beat at around the 14-minute mark as the monster is slowly awakened from within us. Meditation for the overly-anxious, the piece slowly becomes becalmed as the shoulder and neck muscles relax in tandem.
There is no point in describing every track, it is an unfolding story, there will be no spoilers here. You’ll just have to immerse yourself in its inviting but subtly dangerous waters and find out for yourself, like the good musical explorer that you are. Shimmering crescendos, luxurious shallows, pulsing beats, the call and response of electronic derring-do, and the occasionally mellifluous, occasionally spiky surprising and sometimes surprised interjections of guitar animation, along with Andrew Ostler’s clarinets adding organic heft, culminates in a whole that is never clichéd, or lazy, and will hold your attention for however long you find the time to listen.
The album shows traits of the more experimental end of ambient Krautrock, together with the Philip Glass/Steve Reich minimalism favoured by many in this field, along with a large helping of modern industrial ambient music influence. The gristle sometimes throbs. Add to this our intrepid duo’s unfettered imaginations, and it all combines to paint a vast sonic vista on a smog-swirling background.
The Noise Is Unrest was released to coincide with the band’s appearance at Iceland’s Extreme Chill Festival in September, and the slowly evolving pieces featuring occasionally reappearing motifs suits that eerie and ever-changing volcanic landscape to a tee. The album was recorded towards the end of a three year period ending in 2016, as part of a collaboration with singer/composer Georgina Brett, and from which its mere four-hour long predecessor, 2015’s The Rest Is Noise, was also taken.
Timeless in construction and execution, the music presented here is not constrained by time or place, it just is. The finest ambient music never sounds dated, and The Noise Is Unrest will surely fall into that category. Only time will tell, that is, if it doesn’t run out first.
As the press release says: “Who’s going to listen to an album that’s more than 3 hours long? This is the time it takes to fly from London to Istanbul. Create your own reasons…”
Oh… remarkably, this is on offer at “Name Your Price” over on Bandcamp, as are most (all?) Darkroom releases, so you have nothing to lose but your temporal anchor in space.
01. Once Proud Eyes/Oumuamua (25:03)
02. Once Proud Eyes/Haumea (17:35)
03. Agnotology (26:47)
04. Science Is All About Staring (25:32)
05. Losing Our Precision (9:21)
06. Scorzonera/Maid Of Stone (22:47)
07. Serene/Never The Same Way Once (18:57)
08. Runway Excursion Incident (21:16)
09. Kintsukuroi (33:25)
Total Time – 190:43
Michael Bearpark – Guitar, Pedals
Andrew Ostler – Modular Synthesiser, Laptop, Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet
Record Label: Independent
Country Of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 13th September 2019