These Clockwork Tides
6 pieces of music inspired by the land and sea of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales where I live.
Almost all the music is acoustic and field recordings are kept to minimum as I wanted to recreate my experiences and perceptions of the area rather than document them.
“6 pieces of music inspired by the land and sea of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales where I live”. This is the simple, and probably most efficient description of the materials contained in These Clockwork Tides, a 50-copy limited edition on CDR that brings back to my ears the work of the ever-lovely Ian Holloway, the lone electronic artist I know whose use of camouflaged presets amidst less decipherable sources is sonically acceptable. The record does reveal a cinematic mood throughout the large majority of its six tracks: beginning with drones vaguely reminiscent of Klaus Wiese’s, the soundscapes touch on various aspects of perturbed stasis, with at least a couple of surprising turns towards the improvisational sphere. This occurs especially when Holloway strikes and plucks the insides of a piano in one of the central movements, an all-but-marketable move that opens new perspectives on the album’s general temperament. The longest stretch coincides with the conclusive segment: its gradual growth in terms of tension and ominous hues demonstrates that even in a quiet world there’s always something dangerous around the corner. A pleasing release that, strangely enough, blurs the lines of our mental clarity with subsequent listens rather than putting them under focus – and this has to be taken as a positive comment.
Ian Holloway goes the solo route on his tribute to the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, where he makes his home. One can imagine him walking the beach, picking up driftwood, righting an upside-down turtle, searching the tidal pools for octopi and starfish. Or perhaps he is picking up garbage, starting angrily at the sea.
While field recordings are incorporated, they occupy the back pages. At the fore rests an ambient reflection of cycle and hum. When one lives next to the ocean for a long time, one begins to view even violent interruptions – epitomized by the thunder crackle of “Wash”, the terrified scramble of “The Grey Wake” – as temporal events. The sea will reclaim its own, but tends to recede to its former boundaries. The title track bears this out as it surges forward, then retreats into silence again and again, ranging in tone from ominous to calming. Holloway refers to sound and source as These Clockwork Tides – reliable, yet relentless. His piano stays in the lower register, as if to plumb the unimaginable depths.
Half of the album is saved for the closing track, “Firelight”. This piece drops drone as its anchor while using tone as its ship. Sparse guitar notes provide the early adornment; spectral electronics imitate the rocking of the hull. But background becomes foreground as the human sounds sink into the mire. An unusual pulse is allowed to repeat. Dark chords clutch the main deck, lift themselves aloft and run rampant. As the ship begins to sink, Poseidon lifts his trident in cold-eyed anticipation. If this dark ambient stunner was the album’s only track, it would still make the visit worthwhile. For thogh we slepe or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme; it nil no man abyde.
Ian Holloway on "These Clockwork Tides" reflects on the South Wales landscape that, in this album of textures and drones (mostly acoustic, though you wouldn't guess from the skilled recordings), evokes shoreline environments. 'The Grey Wake' breaks through the drone textures with what sounds like inside-piano sounds, while the title track utilises a piano played with its keys. The heart of the album though is the twenty five minute concluding track 'Firelight' - spooky indeed.
Of course Ian Holloway doesn't do noise music, but ambient. Usually one track per release but here six no less, and less dealing with the world of computers and time stretching it seems than much of his previous work, and stronger emphasis on the use of field recordings and acoustic instruments, although none such is present in the opening 'Simple Times'. But otherwise, in the remaining five tracks, we hear the coastal recordings from the Swansea area, thunder, rain, sea along with the tinkling of a guitar, the 88 strings of a piano or the keys thereof and such like. Of course all of it in quite a mellow mood. Only in the final piece, the almost twenty-five minute piece 'Firelight' we hear some of the older Holloway sound, with stretching out sounds. It seems like a small step back. I rather had him see explore the whole new path here, but who knows: somewhere in the future? This is a small but important step forward.
Frans de Ward, Vital Weekly
It's great to get some more material from the welsh label Quiet World, who've for five years now humbly released various works of "gentle psychedelia" – which I must say, despite its vagueness, is quite an apt descriptor. Easily, these are the label's most pleasant looking releases I've seen to date, sporting hand-signed business cards and pro-printed inserts.
Ian Holloway hasn't shied in using his own label, Quiet World, as the primary hub for his creative output. The first of Holloway's releases I'd heard was 2007's A Lonely Place, which was a rather fine post-90s isolationist drone work with lovely sections of acoustic guitar peppered throughout. While it's been rather difficult to keep up with everything he's released since then, much of what has graced my ears has proven to be nearly as exceptional.
Another reason that I've come to respect Holloway's work, is that with every release his focus seems to shift slightly to accommodate a new concept, or set of concepts, without sacrificing whatever it is that makes all of his work sound so distinctly his own. These Clockwork Tides achieves exactly that. It's a work meant to capture the essence of the land and sea of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales via acoustic instrumentation and processing, as opposed to relying solely on environmental documentation. Holloway paints his sonic vision of the peninsula through works of time-stretched tone-floatation, some cycling in simple patterns before dying out, while others accruing layer upon layer of noise until all is bleak. The former works better than the latter, which is especially evident in the near 30 minute closer, "Firelight", that drew me in at first but lost my attention by the halfway point.
Though I believe Holloway's endeavor of recreating experiences and perceptions of an area through the use of acoustic instrumentation to be a noble one, I think he would have potentially found it more rewarding to work exclusively with unprocessed field recordings, as opposed to dipping into his familiar bag of tricks. I believe it to be more challenging to represent an area through exclusive audio documentation of that area, than it is to use instruments and processing to encapsulate memories of one's experience from that area. The latter leaves one susceptible to saturating a work with unintended romanticism and overly cinematic qualities – largely due to one's perception of these unfolding thoughts of a place as a sort of movie of the mind, and thus, the desire to create a deserving score for it. Field recordings, on the other hand (when they are left unprocessed) don't allow for all the potential fluff that's unneeded anyway, and leave one with only pure sonic representation. With that said, in Holloway's rendering of the Gower Peninsula, he manages to paint what sounds like an honest picture, steering clear of many of the traps despite his chosen course of action. All things considered, quite well done.