Morrow vs. Hajduch: Fabric’s A Sort of Radiance

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Fabric: A Sort of RadianceFabric: A Sort of Radiance (Spectrum Spools / Editions Mego, 4/5/11)

Fabric: “Camera”

[audio:|titles=Fabric: “Camera”]

Hajduch: Having folded a few years back, experimental music label Mego has come back full force as Editions Mego.  Initially started as something of a reissue label (pressing remastered, deluxe editions from label faces such as Fennesz and Kevin Drumm), Editions Mego has begun cranking out brand-new releases, most notably the most recent releases from Emeralds and its guitarist, Mark McGuire.

The Emeralds working relationship continues with the formation of sub-label Spectrum Spools, headed by Emeralds member (and prolific solo artist) John Elliott. Spectrum Spools’ debut release is an LP by Chicago artist Fabric, who mines the same kosmische layered-synthesizer territory as many of the above artists with great success.

Morrow: This Fabric album is a nice change because of its varied song durations. That can be a hangup for people who have a harder time getting into ambient music, and alternating between fragments (40-80 seconds) and longer tracks (6-8 minutes) is a nice way to prevent listening fatigue.

As for the music, A Sort of Radiance always has a sort of oceanic wash in the background, keeping a steady pulse for synth waves to crash over at different rhythmic intervals.  One of my favorite tracks, “High Ceilings,” gets a land-based analogy, actually, as it sounds like an electronic translation of a rain forest.  Different sounds chime in to mimic bird calls or the white noise of insects, while a teetering synth line offers a ghostly feel.

Hajduch: I think the two greatest strengths of the album are tone (thick, de-tuned, layered swells competing with brittle lead lines) and melody (a pop sensibility akin to a beat-less Boards of Canada).  And much like BoC, the tracks run from long meditations to short vignettes.  I agree that it helps the rhythm of the album, as does the dynamic nature of the longer pieces.  Though they’re not technical prog journeys, they rarely sound at the end as they do at the beginning.

In the end, my favorite song here is the two-minute “Controls,” a simple three-chord segue between two of the album’s longest tracks.  It breaks the longer drone pieces up with a simple circular melody and serves as a perfect example of everything I like about A Sort of Radiance.

Morrow: Those slightly pared-back minutes of “Controls” — or the scaling tones at the end of “Leaving the House” — offer an easier glimpse of Fabric’s melodic potential.  We’ve discussed a few ambient electronic releases in this column, and though these kinds of albums can be as good or bad as their creators’ abilities, they seem harder for the general populace to appreciate. Skill is harder to discern because there are so many layers, but also because those layers are wispy, atonal, or alien and are harder to pick up than a shredding guitar solo or a maniacal drum fill.

Tracks like “Controls” and “Leaving the House” peel back the layers just enough — while providing simple, effective melodies — for non-aficionados to grab on.

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