There’s something, which Lawrence English said during our interview two months ago that really stuck with me for some time after. He mentioned that one of the questions he wanted to answer during the making of Wilderness of Mirrors, was whether a percussive instrument could be re-appropriated to work in an ambient framework. As music that creates space, ambient textures often negate percussion as a rhythmic device because of its temporal qualities. It’s something that’s stuck towards the back of my mind since that interview and when I moved five minutes into Gabriel Saloman’s Movement Building Volume 1, the first in a series of works for Shelter Press, I was confronted with this question yet again.
Heavy drones and plucked strings give way to a snare drum whose function is only to augment the ambience of the textures. Instead of tapping out a regular rhythm, the various rolls create an environment within which it can counterpoint the legato movements of the drone and feedback, like rain falling on a tin roof. It’s only during the second half of Disciplined Body Part 1, the first of two 17-odd minute compositions, that the percussive rhythm makes its objective clear. As a solo artist Saloman, previously known as one half of Yellow Swans, has been developing his work as music for contemporary dance. This is apparent when a recognisable metre finds its way into Movement Building through a percussive pulse that gives each piece a sense of forward momentum. Disciplined Body Part 1 accompanies this rhythmic section with extensively sustained drones whose microtonal adjustments work alongside the percussion to give the composition an obvious development and progression along the temporal axis. The weighty dissonances of the drones stippled with plucked strings, which together evoke a ghostly atmosphere, a slight departure from the assertive noise that often festooned Saloman’s previous project, Yellow Swans. It’s more about ominous bowing and sustained harmonic movement than harsh abrasive frequencies or metallic percussive. The only obtrusion comes from volume and the subtle feedback it induces, but because Disciplined Body Part 1 is built up on a minimalist framework it remains discreet, giving these elements a wide birth in which they can frolic.
Part 2 builds on this minimalist foundation while shifting the focus slightly towards melodies. The swelling of the bowed drones is intersected with a rich body of plucked melodies from a guitar, which manage to conjure a melancholic sobriety of intense beauty through their evolving phrases. My instinct is to draw an immediate comparison to previous Shelter Press release, Reveries, but the dream-like states, which TQA and Noveller evoked for that outing, is replaced with something far more confrontational. Wide-open spaces are discarded for a towering obstruction that feigns enveloping the listener in favour of the claustrophobic embrace. This element, along with that omnipresent pulse of the percussive beat, rejects conventional conjecture that ambience only exists as a static construct. Movement Building is a piece that moves the ether of ambient textures, exactly as its title suggests, and it is only natural that it should inspire the same in its listeners. It succeeds for that reason as two compositions for contemporary dance.
Disciplined Body Part 2 ends in a hail of high frequency noise, reminiscent of Yellow Swans, which concludes Movement Building Vol.1 with a big question mark. As the first in the series one can only surmise it is a taste of what’s to come, but I also sense a playfulness in Saloman through this coda as if to say; “it’s all noise at the end of the day.” It’s a great way to end a composition that manages to capture the beauty in the drone alongside the progression in the rhythm. The use of percussion is perfectly executed and never dulls the beauty of the sustained drone or the plucked instrument. Gabriel Saloman has managed find a rare balance between these two elements on Movement Building Volume 1.