The oceans keep droning as a new batch of material cometh my way from the unrelenting Mystery Sea label, whose late 2010 was marked by an impressive output of releases (one per month from September through to November if I'm not mistaken), including Banks Bailey's sub-bass nether-world (review forthcoming) and Colin Andrew Sheffield's poignant, yet effervescent minimalist excursions.
A couple of weeks ago I was stuck in a bit of a music enthusiast's rut. In attempting to glean a sense of purpose from a handful of small-run phonography and noise albums, I found myself instead shrugging my shoulders and spending countless minutes per day staring apathetically out windows. Not surprisingly, my distress was soon answered by Colin Andrew Sheffield's Slowly, which propelled me out of that hole by acting as the perfect aural cleanser to my undeniably bored ears. What did surprise me though was just how far it was able to propel me out of that hole and back into the realm of music appreciation, such that every one of my records looked as if they were gold plated and resembled small portals into an eternal paradise where existence is nothing less than pure and infinite pleasure for all of the body's senses. I guess you could call it good timing.
As the liner notes proclaim, the four untitled tracks that occupy Slowly were all derived from various commercially available recordings, although their ambiguity upon first listen means they could easily be mistaken for anything from synths and guitars to augmented field recordings. Upon second or third listen, however, the musical process (I would imagine similar to that used by Belong on their Colorless Record 12", only less obvious) that Sheffield most likely applied in the rendering of these tracks becomes clearer. The shape and form of the original music is there, though the material was obviously fed through an array of processing, likely by certain techniques that have become unique to Sheffield's musical assemblage.
The nearly 20 minute opening track is also the album's finest, registering an amorphous haze of sonic rippling that is ever dynamic. The entirety of the sound spectrum is forced to capitulate to the track's overpowering mass, affectively generating a tug-o-war amongst crystal-sharp tones and out-of-focus resonances. The Industrial overtones and sprawling hiss of the second track continue to encapsulate Sheffield's abilities to adeptly collide the bleary with the lucid, while the third track sees Sheffield slip into a tireless arrangement of heavy-toned minimalism, resembling a more tranquil reprise of the opening track. The closer, with its swaying sawtooth arpeggios, steps on the heels of noise though quickly pulls back before retreating into the meditative abyss that is the album's lifeline. A fine work.