Jonathan Coleclough & Andrew Liles - Torch Songs 2LP
A collaboration between Jonathan Coleclough and Andrew Liles. They met in October 2004 when they both performed at Intergration 3 in Preston, UK. Liles subsequently reworked the recording of Coleclough's solo performance from that evening. He went on to add, subtract, multiply and divide further live recordings supplied by Coleclough, and the eventual result was this double LP. »Torch Songs« is packaged in a gatefold sleeve featuring »I dreamt I was a river«, a poem composed and painted by Geoff Sawers during a performance with Coleclough in Geneva in March 2005. The sound of Geoff's brush painting this lettering can be heard on side B of »Torch Songs« The album comes in a full colour gatefold sleeve with full colour inner sleeves in a limited edition of 500 copies. 180gr. Vinyl. REVIEW FROM BRAINWASHED Jonathan Coleclough, Andrew Liles, and artists Geoff Sawers and Iwanaga Keiko have done more than offer up an album for consumption. It is impossible to pick up this release from Die Stadt and ignore the work binding the songs together: a full-color, painted poem (its contents spanning three languages) dresses this beautiful gatefold sleeve. "One night I find / myself wandering / through a dark and tangled wood / The air is damp / the trees are dripping / hung with mosses and / ferns..." Abstract music exhibits a tendency to reach for the stars too quickly, to remove itself from the confines of the body and the mud and lilt ever upwards towards the vast, black, and less exacting firmament. For those of us still riddled by gravity and the laws of the sciences, such music is a kind of escapism: whether haunting or illuminating, such music is the space where tired heads can go to rejuvenate. Over time this sort of idealism has rendered a laziness. Many artists and aspiring musicians forget why the space exists and its beauty is slowly effaced in the name of interesting sounds and a vulgar modernism that abhors any romance and every principled conviction. Coleclough and Liles, however, know better: Torch Songs is given a context and framed within a night of strange wandering. As the poem continues, stars become visible through the thick network of branches over our nameless narrator's head, but they are as of yet unrecognizable. Coleclough and Liles begin with their feet on the ground and their music opens from within the earth as it were: it is a weird conglomeration of foggy hums and metallic clattering stretching out as a flower bed. From it a further development will emerge: the stars and that space of comfort are visible, but we cannot begin there or make our journey there easily, and our artists know it. I won't spoil the rest of the package but this release functions as a whole and it is useless talking about the music without mentioning what it is housed in. The gatefold packaging isn't merely artwork, it's art conceptualized within the performance that is this project's genesis. Torch Songs began in 2004 when Liles remixed Coleclough's live performance at the Intergration 3 festival in the UK. Subsequent recordings were sent to Liles and yielded eight distinct, but unified songs made from spectral moans, glass bowls, metallic knick-knacks, wooden toys, marbles, bows, perverted bagpipes, and perhaps many other instruments of various shapes and sizes. In 2005 Geoff Sawers painted what would become the cover to Torch Songs during one of Coleclough's performances. Sawers painting not only binds this project together, it is featured as part of the music on the record: his brush strokes can be heard on side B. Torch Songs is carefully considered, a well-developed collaboration that pulls out all of the stops and convenes on a meaning or on a concrete thought and moves from there. Further art artifacts are included as images on either side of the LP sleeves and they all seem to refer to one another, each one fleshing out the strange narrative that begins in the poem. The music itself is not entirely characteristic of either performer, though what I love most about both Coleclough and Liles is evident throughout. On a basic level the music runs a gamut of moods, acknowledging fear, uncertainty, meditative calm, and a lingering playfulness throughout each of the eight tracks. Despite keeping the entire project sensible and understandable from beginning to end, Liles' work on Coleclough's source material is diverse. Each side suggests the next naturally, but each side also surprises and gives birth to new elements. These elements aren't arbitrary, either: as aforementioned there's a tendency in abstract music to move too far outside the realms of the human and to create in a way that ignores the importance of structure, melody, and narrative. Liles' reconstruction may be abstract, but it has identifiable parts and works as a guide, using sound to travel from one place to the next in a natural progression. This puts each of the eight songs right at my finger tips and gives my brain some room to interact with them. I had the good luck to engage this album with good company on a dark night with the windows closed and candles lit. The music shaped the room and made the candles glow brighter, the darkness outside closed into a denser mask, and the individual I was with began to fill the room with me, as though we were the only two people left in the world. It was a singular moment when the music merged with the space and the time I occupied: that memory has been fixed in my mind ever since and will stay there indefinitely. Torch Songs will not likely be surpassed by any other release this year: I say this without hesitation. It is unapologetically a sumptuous work of art that goes well beyond being just another record or project between two outstanding musicians. That alone would've been enough: had this come housed in nothing more than a simple sleeve with minimal artwork, I would still be impressed by it and it would still be played quite often. But Torch Songs should be taken as an example of what a little extra time and thought can do for a record; all of the "extras" (the artwork, the weight of the vinyl, the presentation of the music, everything in short) renders this release far more substantial and enjoyable. I've heard individuals complain that abstract music is all form and little content, the sputtering catharsis of an air conditioner gone awry: Liles and Coleclough prove it doesn't have to be so. This album has set the bar unbelievably high for me and it's unlikely that I will look at any abstract music the same way now that I've heard it.