Field recordings and soft-edged drones come together as the basis for the four pieces of Peter James’ stunning 2011 release, Memento. Beautiful in its sparsity, Memento gives equal weight to both elements and in doing so allows each to complement the other. The long tracks edge forward at a glacial pace, the drones shifting ever so slightly across time. The field recordings are simple and natural–birds chirp throughout “Everything Matters” and the hush of small waves crashing informs “Nothing Matters.” This disc is so elegantly simple and so honest that writing about it does a disservice to the listening experience. With each fresh listen I’m amazed (again) at how much feeling James manages to convey with so little sound. Part of it, perhaps, can be seen in the points where James lets the field recordings take over. The last three and a half minutes of “Everything Matters” is just the calm, reflective sound of a brook. The feel of the music fades and you’re left in this contemplative spot, as though you’d chosen to come sit by this stream and think. Brilliant. Bells chime softly in “Moments Within Each Moment,” lending an even more meditative sense to its hushed flow. I’m perhaps most taken with the final track, “Nothing Matters,” if only because I love the sound of the ocean, and James brings it very much to the forefront. Memento is a disc to leave running at low volume to let its innate calm pervade your space and change your atmosphere. One of the most engaging releases I’ve heard in a long time, and all the more incredible for how much impact James culls from so little. A must-hear.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.