Milton Keynes postrockers Black Spring have smoothed out the rougher edges of their beat-heavy electroacoustic jams for this split release (shared with Akron/Family and Angels of Light groover Miles Cooper Seaton) on their own Monocreo label. If their previous outing, the dissonant Golden Ghost/No End on Structured Disasters, revelled in welding gritty fogs of sound to ironclad percussion grids, the beatific glow of West of Will & Cvrst Patience takes a slightly more refined approach, albeit one that’s no less alchemical. Despite a title that suggests two separate pieces yoked together, there is a unity that ties the mix of minimal dronescapes and melancholic songmaking together. First up, the bristling vibrations of West of Will act as a kind of scorched earth policy, clearing the landscape with a glowering beam of death ray phase that takes down buildings and foliage alike. Edgeless and limitless in the classic drone mode, it replaces ambient music’s typically meditative mood with a flat, sawtoothed drone that exudes a barely repressed anger. It works well, but it’s the lurching lament of Cvrst Patience that hits hardest. A lurching, half-time rhythm like a forced march across a frozen plain is a skeleton for a beautifully haunted vocal refrain, the repetition of a single four-line verse (All my time/Spent in line/Distant lights/Plague my eyes) a contemporary update of a Dantean afterlife, evoking souls hanging around in badly lit corridors and windowless rooms, waiting for an unknown resolution that will never arrive.
If the two halves of West of Will & Cvrst Patience embody the frustrations inherent in a paralysing stasis, Miles Cooper Seaton’s Adige (for Luigi Lineri) offers up a contrasting perspective. Seaton’s piece is a glistening ice field, expanding imperceptibly over its 20-minute span in all directions in a mysterious wave. Long swathes of gradually phasing tones are studded with thousands of diamond bright pinpricks, like sunlight reflecting off freezing, crystalline forms. Yet for all the sub-zero temperatures, there’s a strangely optimistic feel that’s in marked contrast to Black Spring’s stalled resignation. Seaton has dedicated this work to Luigi Lineri, an Italian poet known for his collection of unusually-shaped stones, gathered in daily walks along Adige River near Verona over the past 50 years. Many of the stones look as if they have been carved into human or animal shapes, and although their exact provenance is unknown, they have an austere beauty and undeniable power (you can see some examples here). Seaton piece is similarly enigmatic, both rich in detail and wide in scope, its contemplative mood evoking Lineri’s repeated journeys, his feet marking the daily trudge along the river banks, his eyes looking out into the natural world of water, mud and stones while his mind thinks back into prehistory in an effort to establish some kind of contact with the lives of those ancient sculptors. Seaton’s ambient radiance similarly sends out an empathic link from us and to those prehistoric people with their stone totems, emphasising our shared humanity across the millions of years and, in doing so, igniting a small spark of hope for a better future.