Review of Break [12k1089]

Toneshift (.COM)

Corey Fuller has been a mainstay on the 12k label for a number of years, as one half of Illuha.  Those albums explored a loose, free-flowing ambience and the duo’s live performances that I’ve seen owed a lot to improvisation.  On this solo album, Fuller has created a meticulously crafted work, every sound being deliberately placed and having a much tighter arrangement than those Illuha LPs.

Opener “Seiche” begins with gentle piano notes tapping out a descending melody encased with thin drones, that weirdly reminded me of Autechre at their most mellow.  A breath exhales from speaker to speaker, adding a surprising element to the mix, when suddenly Fuller’s own voice appears, vocal-as-texture. This took me slightly off-guard, but actually sits so perfectly in the mix that it makes total sense. It also speaks volumes as to Fuller’s confidence in this piece, not to mention the emotive quality it infers. But this epic 15-minute track has only begun. Low bass notes suddenly give the track a propulsion, and the synths begin to be layered with grit and fuzz. This immediately reminds me of Christian Fennesz’s work, unbalancing the ambient drift with sunburnt distortion. It’s an impressive and unexpectedly dramatic way to start the album.

Other tracks utilize hazy wisps of distortion elsewhere, like on “Illvi∂ri”, which surfs on a granulated wave above drifting synths and melancholic piano strikes. Despite the distortion, there’s a meditative quality buried under the layers.

The beautifully titled “Look Into The Heart Of Light, The Silence” is the most ambient track here. Clocking in at around 13 minutes, it sputters into life with crunchy panning synths that eventually give way to warmer drones and bright piano notes that float by like dust motes in sunbeams. There’s a lot of emotion in this album, and this mid-way track has it in abundance.

The final two pieces close out the collection with less distortion than the preceding ones.  “A Hymn For The Broken” finds mellow, warm drones cascading into each other, and those voices appear again, this time soaked in reverb and acting like melodic counterparts to the synths.  “A Handful Of Dust” begins with detuned, warbling chords that get covered in a soft layer of hiss and room tones. Field recordings rattle around the edges of the track, like creaking chairs and someone can be heard breathing into the microphone.  Again, the piano is the centre of the composition.  It’s the instrument that Fuller has played throughout his career and found the perfect home for here. For all the sonic experimentation and creative processing, those piano notes are the real message in this album, and express so much emotion in such simple ways.

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