Sitting somewhere between the time stretched stillness of last year’s Virginia Woolf-inspired collaboration with con_cetta, Orlando, and the ominous loom of The Twilight Zone, released under her Moon Ra moniker, this latest cassette from Italian electronic sound artist Marie e le Rose is a set of compositions inspired by the natural world and our place in it.
Combining airy field recordings with filmy layers of analogue synth drones and minimalist piano figures, this is no attempt to evoke a particular location. Instead, le Rose here seems intent on conjuring up those particular emotions brought forth – awe, calmness, even anxiety – by our encounters with these natural spaces. Like the work of Richard Skelton, perhaps, its unhurried pace seems to be an attempt to lock into the different processes and timescales that govern the trees and oceans that give the album its title.
The album seems to be divided, roughly, into three unequal rough parts, followed by an electronic coda, which has no thematic link with what has gone before. The two tracks on the first side of the cassette – rather functionally entitled A1 and A2 – evokes the airy, dappled spaces of woodlands (the trees of the title, perhaps). Unending drones – no attack, no decay, just pure sustain – establish a meditative, almost weightless atmosphere, with an almost submerged metronome click on A1 the only sign that time is passing.
Rather than a sense of stasis, these pieces slowly reveal themselves to be constantly in flux, but with a rate of change so gradual that it is almost indiscernible to the naked ear. It’s like standing in a copse, staring at the trunks and branches spread out in front of you. Nothing seems to be happening, yet everything is. Field recordings, of leaves rustling and branches creaking, emphasise the bucolic-yet-trancey mood, their sounds fluttering across the surfaces of the tracks.
A2 adds more instrumentation, a delicate repeating piano figure curling around the synths, before le Rose fades in a tape of a Gregorian chant. Otherworldly, just on the right side of cheesy, the choir and piano lock together to mesmeric effect.
The final piece on this side (that’s A3, fact fans) is heavier and more opaque, marking a transition from the woody lightness into a deep, oceanic thickness. Field recordings are come into play again, more forcefully here, lending a blurry hubbub of crashing waves and seagull squawks to its intro. But soon, these fade out, as we begin our descent.
This track and B1, its companion on the other side of the tape, are defined by ominous bass drones, and punctuated by all sorts of echoing resonances, sinister knocks and glistening pulses. Dreamy synth washes fade in and out. But this is no Octopus’s Garden. Instead the sense of travelling slowly through some mysterious underwater landscape, a camera eye in the vast depths, is inescapable. But there’s also a growing sense of pressure, a claustrophobia heightened by a high-pitched tone that appears part way through B1, which builds into an almost unbearable sense of tension.
After this aqueous heaviness, the analogue gloop of Indya (Caesura) comes as somewhat of a relief. Neither tree nor sea, its tessellated synthetic angles glisten like asteroids fashioned from some alien metal. This panoply of extraterrestrial sounds seems to lack any discernible structure yet still hangs together, somehow, its burbles and whooshes complemented by dull piano tinkles and metallic scrapes. It’s pared down, yet sonically rich, a shifting cloud, an amorphous swarm of sound.
Hear more from Marie e le Rose on her Soundcloud.