Ian Holloway, Rhodri Thomas & Stephen Jones - Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones

Recorded over a period of about 3 years this is a set of (almost) acoustic improvisations recorded in (amongst other places) Ian's bathroom (it has nice acoustics), a flat in Salisbury and a wood in Swansea.

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Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones


From 13 February, we took in another delivery from the Swansea micro-label Quiet World, run by Ian “Mr Serenity” Holloway, who must be one of the few people who still uses sealing wax to seal up his envelopes. Like Sustained Development, he too has been known to use reworked field recordings with electronic drones, to cultivate his gentle hymns of praise to the English environment. However Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones (QUIET WORLD TWENTY TWO) is, in some regards, more like conventional music. Holloway is joined by Rhodri Thomas and Stephen Jones, and the trio play guitars, percussion, melodica, electronic instruments and so forth, their languid instrumentals occasionally supplemented by samples and recordings from the countryside. String instrument playing (guitar or ukulele) may appear to be the dominant musical component, but don’t expect to hear the prowess of a John Fahey or Robbie Basho in these grooves. The finger-picking and melodic strums, particularly as played by Rhodri with his “Welsh guitar”, is pleasant and listenable but also kept deliberately unobtrusive, understated. On ‘Licking Pennies off a Wall’, for example, the music is almost an adjunct to the low-key and mysterious samples of Holloway, and our listening interest derives not from any appreciation of musicianly guitar-playing skill, but from the rich combination of the sounds. This is the case even when the combination doesn’t appear to have been especially pre-planned to allow for happy coincidences; it’s like the artless superimposition of two unrelated pieces of 8mm film, to create a new movie experience. If some of this strikes you as a little twee or new-agey, you might fare better with ‘I Am An Owl’, which is a Holloway solo track produced from overdubbing percussion tracks (kalimba and rain stick) with the sound of a “singing gate”, which hopefully is the result of making a sawing or bowing motion against the railings of a gigantic cast iron gate from the Victorian period. I know for a fact Jonathan Coleclough once did this, and the world has never been the same since he bowed that gate. 1 This Owl track of Holloway’s is still pretty “musical”, but it remains rooted in a very basic tonal range as it drones, sighs and rattles in nocturnal fashion; at fourteen minutes in length, it is the longest piece here, and the most magical. One can almost imagine its constant repetitions being deployed by Holloway with the intuitive and studied patience of a Welsh druid, effecting the transformation of man into bird. Also of note is ‘Stumble Slightly Lower’, where the guitar playing is undercut by wobbly theremin wails and the fuzz of a sine wave generator. Less than three minutes, but it’s somehow perfect in its hermetically sealed oddness. I’d have willingly paid entry price for a whole CDR of this sort of content. The three players here are old friends and collaborators on other projects, and the record assembled itself over a period of many years. That warmth and compassion transfers well onto the disc. Long live these simple ghosts.
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector

With these two new releases on Quiet World the labels moves away from the well-known drone ambient sound scapes into something else. Labelboss Ian Holloway teams up with the for me unknown players Rhodri Thomas and Stephan Jones, playing samples, melodica, percussion, ukulele, shells, welsh guitar, singing gate, kalimba, rain stick, theremin and sine wave generator - not all of these at once, but spread out over these five tracks, which are more less acoustic improvisations. Taped in a bathroom, a flat and woods. This trio worked together before on audio/visual projects. This is surely also 'ambient' but just not by regular standards. Spacious, quiet improvisations, which only in the final piece, 'Stumble Slightly Lower' is a bit more nasty, due to the sine wave generator. It a short epilogue. The other four tracks are just very fine slow meandering pieces, quite freely played, without, seemingly, much sense of direction, but this lack of composition is made up for with some nice careful playing of the instruments. Great stuff and a fine move for Holloway.
FdW, Vital Weekly

Simple Ghosts & Lazy Bones sounds just like its title.  It’s a tiny bit haunted, but the ghosts are benign; and it took three years to complete, but it did get done.  The album sets it own pace, like a colorful yarn spun by a good friend.  This description may not be far from the truth, as certain parts were recorded in the participants’ flats.  Friends would drop by to improvise, even in Holloway’s bathroom, which apparently has very good acoustics.  A wide variety of instrumentation (melodica, ukulele, theremin, rain stick, shells) delivers an eclectic sound.  Field recordings from the Penllergaer woods anchor the recording in place, lending it the feel of a shared diary.
What starts off sounding like a warm-up session with Do Make Say Think gradually develops into an intuitive collaboration.  Calling birds fill the silences between the notes of “Halcyon”.  Thomas’ subdued guitar carries the lead on “Licking Pennies Off a Wall”, but gurgling samples eventually claim the territory as their own.  This leads to the album’s make-or-break track, the 14-minute “I am an Owl”.  The opening notes sound more like a foghorn than a swivel-headed bird, but share the nocturnal creature’s aura of mystery.  As the kalimba looks for a duet partner, the bass notes oblige, increasing in frequency.  Something is building, but what?  The rain stick operates as odd percussion until the real percussion scrapes to the surface; and when it does, the simple ghosts follow.  At this point, the piece begins to suggest an acoustic version of The Caretaker, while the rain stick takes on the timbre of Hitchcockian birds.  Thomas’ return on the closing track implies normalcy, but the theremin and sine wave generator say otherwise.  This setting is for man and ghost alike, and there’s no reason for either of them to leave. 
Richard Allen, A Closer Listen

Quiet World's path to global ambient domination continues with ‘Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones’ by Ian Holloway, Rhodri Thomas & Stephen Jones, who on their five track mini-album combine synth drones, percussion and ethnic instruments to good effect. 'Long Live The New Flesh' is only three and a bit minutes but it sets up a lovely atmosphere, while 'Halcyon' is an Ian Holloway solo piece on ukulele and field recordings - very quiet, rather lovely, with ‘shells’, presumably real shells, making a subtle ticking-clock background. 'Licking Pennies Off A Wall' is a quiet collision between guitar and samples, while the fourteen minute central cut of the album, 'I Am An Owl,' is another Holloway solo, created from recorded sounds, kalimba (thumb piano) and rain stick. The album closes with 'Stumble Slightly Lower,' in which all three musicians combine to create a brief window into a strange world evoking short wave radio.

L’unione di tre menti è un fatto assai raro nel solitario mondo del musicista ambient-soundscape ma Ian Holloway ha ‘testato’ la possibilità di vedere crescere un laboratorio sonoro in più occasioni e con diversi contatti nei suoi intensi quattro anni di produzione musicale principalmente per la sua creatura Quiet World.
Il tutto concedendosi occasionalmente ad esperienze con altre label, se ricordate abbiamo fatto la conoscenza del musicista inglese in occasione del suo one-track-album “Silent Spring” alla corte di Dark Meadow Recordings.
Dei due compagni d’avventura presenti in questo album nessuna traccia, saranno per noi sconosciuti fino al momento in cui ascolteremo le cinque tracce di “Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones”, un titolo che sa di bruma e brughiera, villaggi antichi e croci instabili di pietra non nobile, un’immagine romantica ed allo stesso tempo inquietante, adorabile icona non trovate?
L’idea del laboratorio sperimentale è perfetta: cinque tracce per cui investire risorse, materia astratta da plasmare con inventiva, strumentazioni insolite, aperture cerebrali dal sapore alchemico nella ricerca di una soluzione sonora diversa, una lega acustica interessante; controllate sempre la formula di costruzione del suono, come e cosa viene impiegato per capire ogni singolo tintinnio, riverbero, dettaglio.
Nella prima parte, nelle prime tre tracce, “Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones” è l’essenza stessa della label, un mondo in relax, una parentesi meditativa che poggia sulla chitarra la sua forza, piccoli picking e fields recordings fluidi, arpeggi definiti invece con “Licking Pennies Of A Wall”: la percezione di solitudine è forte, la voglia di isolamento è esigenza, uno standby dichiarato per ricaricare l’anima.
“I Am An Owl” vira invece verso la ritualità ‘mantrica’: campane liquide (in realtà è una kalimba che si adopera in tal senso) per tocchi sporadici, suoni profondi in un complesso rituale, condividete insieme a Ian, qui solo, lo stato percettivo.
Il finale è anche il ritorno dell’arpeggio disturbato da un noise ciclico e ruvido, simile alle ricerche sul ‘white noise’ (E.V.P.): “Stumble Slightly Lower” è il relax della sei corde e le nevrosi delle oscillazioni, feedback uniti al theremin, discreto ma presente: per il finale il trio è compatto nella stesura del suono.
Nasce tre anni fa “Simple Ghosts & Lazy Old Bones”: incontri saltuari ed improvvisazioni per affinare, eleggersi menti compatte e simbionti nel comune obbiettivo della creazione, ancora una volta Ian Holloway, e chi con lui, ‘gioca’ con il suono sperimentando percorsi che hanno un'unica direzione, l’astrazione, il volgere altrove la mente focalizzandola sull’individuo, fermare la routine per nutrire lo spirito.
Nicola Tenani, Sounds Behind the Corner

On découvrait Ian Holloway voici un peu plus d’un an via le label Phonospheric chez qui il sortait l’album Passing Through Occasionally. Le voici cette fois à domicile puisque ce nouvel album sort chez Quiet World, son propre label qui vient de fêter ses 10 ans. A ses côtés, deux artistes dont on ne sait absolument rien : des amis et collaborateurs de longue date et au final trois improvisateurs qui ont rassemblé, collé, agencé ici des sessions enregistrées sur une période de trois ans.
Pour mémoire, Passing Through Occasionally était un album très porté sur les drones, à l’atmosphère plutôt pesante. On retrouve ici en partie ce type d’ambiance, mais le passage au trio permet d’apporter une certaine variété, une richesse nouvelle. Le disque se compose de 5 titres, de formes très différentes puisqu’ils s’étendent sur 3 à 14 minutes.
La courte introduction illustre très vite notre propos, avec un joli drone statique sur lequel viennent se poser une mélodie de guitare aux teintes bluesy et un délicat jeu de percussions. Plus lumineux et bucolique, Halcyon met l’accent sur une mélodie de guitare contemplative, ponctuée par la manipulation de bouts de bois, avec au loin des piaillements d’oiseaux, l’ensemble se rapprochant alors d’un post-rock ambient qui se poursuit de façon plus mystérieuse avec Licking Pennies Off A Wall.
On passe ensuite au gros morceau de l’album avec une sorte de sirène de bateau qui ouvre I Am An Owl. Joli contraste entre ce son grave, métallique et grésillant, et la lente mélodie cristalline de ce qui semble être une kalimba. Le trio joue ici sur un certain minimalisme et une lente progression, toujours assez proche de la nature, avec notamment un bâton de pluie ou grelot en bois qui donne une teinte aquatique à l’ensemble. La progression est lente, les éléments vont et viennent sans cesse, alternant entre tension et apaisement, mais sans jamais créer de réelle fracture.
Le disque s’achève sur un étonnant Stumble Slightly Lower, marqué par des sifflements et manipulations d’ondes radios, cadrés par une mélodie de guitare posée.
Un disque que l’on aura mis un peu de temps a apprivoisé mais qui se révèle finalement très attachant. On le conseillera avant tout aux amateurs d’un post-rock ambient et expérimental.
Fabrice Allard, EtherReal












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