Black Spring – Golden Ghost / No End

Last year a tape came across my desk featuring a collaboration between Black Spring and the Engineer, with a dystopian sonic landscape that just sneered at me from it’s origins in Milton Keynes, like the opening paragraph of J.G Ballard Novel. So when another tape found it’s way to the Formant, bearing the name Black Spring, it took very little persuasion to press play.

What immediately became evident was that the raw feeling of a purposeful modernised city is no longer there and even though melancholy and a sombre sonic landscape lies beyond the opening bars of Golden Ghost, there’s also a very innocent optimism in the swirling pads and the lazy choral expressions of the various synthesisers that make up the accompaniment. Black Spring attempts to stretch each sonic moment out to infinity; the rumblings of low end percussion cushioning the blow of a live acoustic kick; the percussion feeding off its resonances until they disappear into the ether; and the simple motifs only ever at the point on inception and never really going anywhere other than back to its origins. The only movement in the composition lies in the outer edges of the atmosphere, gently easing the listener through the complexities of the various inert parts.

Black Spring combines elements of synthesis and processed acoustics through this extended two-track tape and finds something that soothes as much as it propels. There’s a consistent driving mantra that appears at the heart of the two tracks that really comes to the fore during No End, the title possibly a clue to what Black Spring might be trying to achieve through this release. The repetitive percussive rhythm and the chanting vocal feel like you are always at the edge of the next phrase without ever getting there, as if trying to reach some spiritual nirvana (the end), without ever transcending the reality of the here and the now. There are less of those wavy elements hinting at the movement as there was before with Golden Ghost, but they are still there, cascading over the rumbling rocky drums, to a point where they become this distant memory of a powerful moment disappearing into a daydream.

There’s a sense, throughout this release, that you’re drifting in and out of the music, without realising it, and while listening to it, you’ll constantly find yourself in the midst of a new activity, one you’d not realise you’ve started until the music stops, with one question on your mind – how did I end up here? For a reviewer, this makes the job of highlighting the finer points of the music all that much harder, but for a listener it’s a very pleasant and unique experience. The only criticism I could offer in the latter role however, is that I wish I could disappear completely into my thoughts and for that it would need to be much longer.