North Palace (Forwind) is the sound of ambient drift and temporal collapse, carried through the white noise of a light-weighted needle tracking a phonograph groove at slow speed. We hardly need to be told that Tokyo-based producer Tomonari Nozaki produced this music on “old reel to reel tape units and analogue equipment”.
North Palace is a suite of five pieces. “Part I” is aeolian siren sound drifting through audio-mnemonic mist, soft detonations punctuating the lulling ambient scurf. Gradually, through ten minutes of elemental accretion, it builds and breaks as a rolling wave.
A nostalgia-evoking shimmer of pianistic harmonics ripples through the sound-mote static of “Part II”. The effect is muzzy and narcotic. On “Part III”, the riffle of a locked groove mixes with a melancholic whorl of reverberant organ in cavernous headspace. Traces of spectral choristry merge with the sense impression of an orchestra on “Part IV”. There’s an unusual point of dislocation before the end, where sound-clouds part to reveal dry, rodent-on-cardboard scratching sounds. It’s only a fleeting event; a nice touch.
You may have encountered similar soundscapes before: venturing into Thomas Koner’s liminal arctic zones; accompanying Gavin Bryar’s Titanic into a cold, crepuscular aquatic void; meditating within the cathedrals of Philip Jeck’s stacked Dansette installations; losing yourself in the entropy of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. But North Palace doesn’t sound derivative; it’s nicely realised, thoughtfully structured, concise and richly detailed.
“Part V” could be the noise of a music-free acetate played on an entropic, time-slowed loop; except there are lacunae in the playback, like the temporal glitches produced by slack tape. That’s probably, albeit deliberate, what they are.
Given the loaded, romantic appeal of pre-aged audio, and the audibility of process that’s so integral to any such acid-washed music, it’s ironic that North Palace could (perhaps) only be mediated effectively on CD/in cold digital. The vinyl edition of Basinski’s Disintegration Loops proposes the continuation of a process of creation through attrition, but we need the pink noise of a CD to reveal the assiduous detail in the weave of these multiple-analogue soundscapes.
Hear for yourself: there’s a five minute sampler mix for the album on Soundcloud.
North Palace is Nozaki’s first release in any hard format. It follows an EP and an album of ambient tape loops, issued on the Slovakian Soun Records label in digital-only format under the alias UNKNOWNjp.
Dentistry – Vardøgr + Taus – Pinna
Toshimaru Nakamura and John Butcher – Dusted Machinery + Skogen – Ist gefallen in den Schnee
Forwind label roundup: Fourth Page – Ticks and Moans, Sonnamble – Blindlight, Elvers – Elvers