RTCD15 - Fergus Kelly: Gleaming Seams

Gleaming Seams is a new 49 minute solo album of 10 compositions based around studio improvisations with found metals and plastics, drums, cymbals and gongs. These have been edited and combined with treated electromagnetic recordings of ATMs, computer drives, ticket dispensers and overhead tram lines. Field recordings have been woven in at some points, as well as brass, snare and orchestral samples to further enrich the sound colour and dynamic of the compositions.

Some field recordings have been made on my mobile when I had nothing else to hand, and involve raw captures of fleeting conversations in shops, on public transport and elsewhere. I like the idea of these sounds being one of many sonic stratas of city life, one that all manner of stories and personalities emerge from, interspersed with all other sounds, a layer of life whose profile and consequent noise floor has risen steeply with the inescapable and increasingly prolific presence of mobile phones, and all the loud, one-way conversations they shove unbidden into urban space.

The various found metals and plastics are part of a collection going back over 30 years, including hub caps, washing machine parts, steel conduit, plastic tubing, car suspension springs, circular saw blades, sundry steel and aluminium vessels, beer barrels, Burco boiler (water heater), heavy plastic water canisters, tumble dryer drum and brass military shells. The gunfire and radio comms sounds on Camouflage were sourced from training websites.

Field recordings from various sources include the local bottle bank being emptied, action calls on film set, theatre set construction and backstage sounds, Millenium bridge in London and skateboarders in Barcelona (the latter recorded by Ben Gale and used with kind permission), bumblebees and carpenter bees, crickets, binaural mics inside large Wavin pipe (all recorded in Croatia), and late summer evening birdsong along Dublin's Royal Canal.

"Almost like clockwork, there are new releases by Fergus Kelly, from Dublin. One of his primary interests is the use of found metal and plastics, drums, cymbals and gongs. He adds to that "treated electromagnetic recordings of ATMs, computer drives, ticket dispensers and overhead tramlines". 

The result is always an interesting combination of field recordings and electro-acoustic improvisation and listening to the results it is not easy to say where one begins and the other stops. It is always the most interesting combination of the two. Some of this has been captured on a mobile phone and captures people talking in shops or the tram, but that, for me, only adds to the music.

Maybe, you could think, that will sound like Z'EV, and only very occasionally it does, for instance in the opening piece 'Numb Burn', but overall Kelly's approach is a much more 'ambient' one; for the lack of a better word. Mood and atmospheres, so I think, play a big role in his work. The percussion rings and sings, just like the various field recordings buzz, hiss and crackle in a similar atmospheric way. What doesn't make it ambient is the electric undercurrent in the music, I would think, which also accounts for some of his more mechanical playing of sounds.

This is, but I'm not sure there, certainly not the work of someone playing this 'live in a room', but rather the result of meticulous editing and shaping of recordings from many sources and dense layering. Does he do this sort of thing in concert anyway, I wondered? If he does, I'd be very curious to see him in action. The music on this album is great, which, knowing his previous releases, is hardly a surprise. For those who still need to explore what Kelly is about, this is certainly a good place to start."

Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly.

"I've been listening to Fergus Kelly's music for about a decade now and have found it consistently rewarding, his dark percussion/tape studies always very immersive, rich and unique to his sensibility. 'Gleaming Seams' might be my favorite yet. Centered around percussion (drums, metals, plastics, gongs and more), the ten pieces are embedded--sometimes thoroughly,  sometimes more gently and subtly--into webs of field recordings taking various forms, exterior (trams, skateboard park, random conversations) and interior (ATM machines, computer drives, etc.). As well, there are samples from other musics, including brass and orchestras, that glimmer through the dim, roiling haze.

The softly clanging metals that open 'Numb Burn' draw you in immediately. Just as you're settling in, things shift to a more irregular, quasi-rhythm, the drums attempting to stay afloat amidst backward tape and brass flourishes, buzzing electronics and more, a shifting mirror-like construction that leaves the listener at once disoriented and oddly satisfied. Kelly applies variations to this approach throughout, allowing the percussion to form a kind of core, the ancillary sounds swirling around at some points, adhering and forming their own new structures at others. 

Now and then, the electronics drift into quiet pulses, creating an almost unnoticed thread, loosely tying together the disparate sound worlds, occasionally bearing the slightest Balinese tinge. The balance between the acoustic and electronic, including the field recordings, is perfect; Kelly achieves a unity that's pretty rare. Each of the ten tracks works extremely well on its own and the whole leaves one sated and even a little moved, the darkness of the evoked soundscapes paradoxically offering some degree of nostalgia. A complicated, brilliantly conceived sound-world. Highly recommended."

Brian Olewnick, Just Outside.

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