Androgini mrak. Fotografije od soli. Glacijalna romantika.
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Brambles is the solo project of Mark Dawson, born in Britain, permanent resident of Australia and currently living who-knows-where as he travels Europe and beyond. Thanks to a prolific spell of writing from Mark, what was originally pegged as an EP quickly turned into an album. Charcoal is the result of long hours spent recording, editing and mixing. A lot of this material was recorded during his stay at "The Painted Palace" (see the Brambles Forecast mix of the same name), a communal house in Melbourne open to all manner of creative outsiders.
Crucially, the house also played home to a piano; during the night-time this was where Brambles sat, working out melodies and making recordings into the small hours. Sometimes the piano is at the forefront (as on the solo piano piece, 'Unsayable'), while at other times it plays a support role to plucked and bowed strings, haunted woodwind instruments, whispered field recordings and distant chimes ('To Speak of Solitude').
This is undeniably a night-time album, it has that still, peaceful quality to it, the same you get when you walk down a deserted street at night. And despite the slow pace, the music rarely seems melancholic - there's a sense of contentedness which pervades the album from beginning to end. Mark seems very at ease with life and there's a similar spirit to the music, it is deep, thoughtful and optimistic - in the words of Donal Whelan (who mastered the final album), "it's like being wrapped up in a warm blanket". Even the slightly more sinister "Deep Corridor", which plunges you to the depths of the ocean, has that "cosy catastrophe" feel to it. I can't help but think of Blade Runner and Vangelis when I hear it. - www.serein.co.uk/
Mark Dawson’s debut as Brambles is packed with mystery and buoyed by austerity. It’s not common to hear an album whose source instruments can confound and comfort at the same time. The intellectual in us will sometimes have a hard time figuring out what instrument is what, but inevitably the reptile brain will rejoice without caring.
The opening pair of tracks sets a stage for sombre and wintery feelings. “Such Owls As You” utilizes a peaceful piano motif and the softest accents of saxophone this side of twilight. One can draw a lot of connecting points to the label’s flagship duo Nest who similarly can make anything one looks at rich with importance. Mysterious winds or sirens occasionally drift in and out of focus, sounding entirely organic and a bit haunting. Throughout we hear field recordings like the fluttering of wings coupled with dreamy interpretations of classical instruments.
“In The Androgynous Dark” delivers a chilling romanticism that is at the heart of the Brambles sound. It’s the first instance of any percussion, a hushed brushing echoing into the undergrowth, and it’s punctuated by a melody that sounds as if it’s being played on a piano made of ice. Clarinet, strings and guitar make for a rich and soft pillow of sound, one that you might rest your head upon when the bittersweet truths in life consume the mind.
Charcoal is just warming up, however. “Salt Photographs” is the album’s fulcrum at nearly seven minutes, effortlessly changing from a string quartet sounding one shade shy of paranoid to an optimistic Peter Broderick shuffle. There is a rich soundtrack quality to this album, but not in “it’s made for a movie” kind of way. This is a soundtrack that begs a movie to be made in your mind. Most artists do great things when they simply respond to their own life. It feels like a miracle to us, the folks who have no idea how someone can get to this place where art is manifesting so clearly, so wonderfully.
When I listen to Brambles I am hearing an artist who is pouring his life into his music. He obviously has spent hours crafting this work and probably doesn’t care deeply about being recognized for it. This is the hallmark of the Serein label. Through each of its major releases (this being the third) the artists’ music has been a creation of stark necessity. Each composition calls for certain instruments all the while having a clarity of expression. A fellow left to his own thoughts for hours hunched over a piano in a communal artist house for months could come up with such a performance, as Dawson did at the Painted Palace in Melbourne where most of this album was recorded. It has been said that this is a night time album, and it was the most fragile of hours when Brambles likely broke through and solidified his melodies and major compositional cornerstones. But I hear a poignant album that can grace our most quiet of times or punctuate a wild event with a knowing caress. This is delicate music which, like a flower, only lasts for so long but is built upon a foundation of a need to live well and live beautifully. Bravo. May you find your bee. (Nayt Keane)
Sometimes when you listen to a particular type of album you are swept away to some far-off place only to be brought back to earth again an hour or so later. During that time nothing around you seems to matter. Good albums can do that and Charcoal, the debut LP by Brambles, is certainly that. This is the work of solo-instrumentalist Mark Dawson and this, his first, is released on UK label Serein next week. It seems to be a deeply personal, heartfelt work and one that immediately stands out as one of my favourite releases of 2012.
Charcoal starts with the gentle sound of fluttering birds’ wings as the slowly meditative opener ‘To Speak of Solitude’ gradually unfolds. Like a lot of music on the album it combines plucked strings, wind instruments, and dampened piano notes that amble slowly. These are Dawson’s instruments of choice and they recur throughout the whole album, being only occasionally joined by gentle percussion. The use of samples sometimes augment his pieces with atmospheric noise (crashing waves, for example) offering context to the journey he takes you on. For the most part the songs are downtempo and patient, dark not light.
A lot of this material was recorded during his stay at “The Painted Palace”, a communal house in Melbourne open to all manner of creative outsiders. Crucially, the house also played home to a piano; during the night-time this was where Brambles sat, working out melodies and making recordings into the small hours. [...] This is undeniably a night-time album, it has that still, peaceful quality to it, the same you get when you walk down a deserted street at night…The darkness makes it tempting to use the word haunting to describe Charcoal and in the song ‘Deep Corridor’ it does have its unsettling moments. Ultimately, however, the overall effect of the album is uplifting rather than brooding. It is even playful at times and some tracks, particularly the gorgeous ‘Pink and Golden Billows’, would sit happily on the soundtrack to a modern-day fairy tale. If there is a stand out track here it is the stunning ‘Salt Photographs’ as it seems to capture perfectly the musical style being alluded to throughout the entire album. One that is gently contemplative while being powerfully moving. However, it is only by allowing the album in its entirety to wash over you that will really evoke the images Dawson intended. Possibly a midnight stroll through a dark forest, as the cover depicts, or the exploration of some far-off fantasy land.
As the night’s draw in and Autumn ushers in Winter this album is as timely as it is accomplished. Direct comparisons are hard but it did at times remind me of a stripped down Jacaszek while its more ambient moments, for example the peaceful second track ‘Such Owls as You’, are reminiscent of Hammock’s earlier work. Charcoal is released on 22nd October but is available for pre-order from October 15th. It is highly recommended. - Ben Rutter
Interview with Brambles
Could you talk a little about ‘The Painted Palace’ and its impact on your creative process?
The first two tracks on Charcoal were created whilst living in Brisbane. There I spent a lot of time alone on the piano under my house, creating very subtle and restrained songs. Having previously suffered from a serious case of epic-itus, I was very cautious not to get too carried away with the sound I wanted for the album. On a whim, I decided to move to Melbourne and whilst being ‘between homes’, I took the opportunity to explore a range of different sub-cultures and living spaces. A particularly unforgettable experience involved squatting in an abandoned office block with a bunch of anarchists who played live-action zombie role-playing games in the maze of graffiti-spattered hallways. Due to this bout of ephemeral living (sometimes without electricity), I must have mixed the album tracks in at least 10 different locations, which was often quite problematic and progress was slow. I remember one time, I had found the perfect library, it was so peaceful, I had my gear all set up and ready to go with soft ambient music playing in my headphones, when suddenly, a great choir of toddlers creeps up from behind, chanting bizarre and barely intelligible things about spiders and waterspouts! That harrowing experience put me off libraries for a while. You’d think they would be the perfect place to mix an ambient album, it’s just turning pages mainly, perhaps a footstep here and there, but when it’s a hundred people furiously turning pages and you already have several texture tracks in the song you’re currently working on, it’s not exactly ideal.
Eventually, I found my way into a house where the vibrant walls, art and people were quite indiscernible from one another. I had reached The Painted Palace, and it was to become the mise-en-scène for the remainder of my album. I could perhaps call the time I spent there, my ‘Belle Époque’. We were a collective of political and artistic misfits, often seen travelling bareback on bicycles, in a V formation, through the streets of Melbourne. Our baskets, more often than not, teeming with copious amounts of found fruit and vegetables. Living so closely with such a heterogeneous cluster of people introduced me to many new and thought-provoking perspectives. I became more aware of my privileged status as a white male human and aware also of my socially-constructed presuppositions which guide my actions on a daily basis. Of course, due to these personal changes, Charcoal grew and shifted in unexpected ways, and I feel that each track is markedly different from the next. The hardest part resided in album coherence, as I often found a new song was heading in a direction that would be incongruous with the album as a whole. I feel the finished article is a compromise between my desire to create sleepy soothing songs and my ever-increasing interest in a more abstract and aberrant sound palette.
Charcoal strikes me as a very personal work. What sort of experiences/imagery were you drawing on when writing it?
Spending nearly as much time on visual art as I do audio, I find that one cannot exist without the other. Whilst producing a track, I am usually trying to recreate a certain mood found in a particular piece of artwork that has inspired me. For Charcoal, it was always black and white photography. Sometimes I would cycle through photographs whilst producing a track to make sure I was getting the right feeling or atmosphere. So in a way, the album is an audio translation of the artwork I enjoy, the stuff that elicits the strongest emotional response from me upon viewing.
Literature has always been a great source of inspiration also. For example, the opening track, ‘To Speak Of Solitude’ is practically a score to a scene in the book Steppenwolf, where protagonist Harry Haller is walking the streets at night, with footsteps falling upon moist pavements and street lamps glimmering above.
The album has a very striking sound design. How do you go about achieving this?
The instruments heard are a mixture of my own recordings and samples. Some of the instruments that I have played and recorded include piano, cello, acoustic guitar, saxophone and melodica.
The textures and details include my own field recordings and some samples sourced from old Musique Concrete records.
Details come from things like small objects dropped onto metal plates, old and broken electronic instruments, microphones inside paper postage bags and more obvious things like the howling wind and birds fluttering. At the end of Arête you can hear creaking which involved putting a microphone underneath a couch and rolling all over it with three dogs.
Is this a one off for you or do you have plans for a follow up?
I do indeed have plans for a follow-up album, but the concept I have in mind is going to be very time consuming, so who knows when it will be finished. In the meantime, I am a few tracks in to creating an EP to be released next year. I am also beginning another project via iambrambles.com – It will involve different art mediums feeding closely off one another (Art, music, literature) and will eventually include collaborations with other artists. - Interview by Ben Rutter
Perennial Flux is a new project by Brambles and will take the form of periodic editions which will be released through this page. Every edition will include art, words and an audio track available for download. Each of these artistic mediums will be inextricably linked to one another and centered around a chosen topic or theme. Perennial Flux also intends to be used as a collaborative platform and has lined up some exciting artists, musicians and writers for future releases.
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