A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Torridon Gate will transport you – from Jupiter’s Moons to the Mines Of Moria. You might be led to believe that the Gate is an extraterrestrial artifact to fold space and time, but in fact, it’s just an ordinary garden gate.
Howlround is the joint effort of that much loved sonic alchemist Robin The Fog, who has gained an extra set of ears and hands in the personage of Chris Weaver. Robin The Fog has been using microphones and ferric tape to conjure the secret life of inaminate objects for a while now, most notably with The Ghosts Of Bush, one of our favorite records, where Robin The Fog approximated the soul of the grand Bush House, former home to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
The Radiophonic Workshop is a telling touchstone for “Torridon Gate,” as all of these squeaks, rattles, and flickering pulses were taken from one field recording of a garden gate in Torridon, in Hither Green, London, using only a trio of tape machines, with “all electronic effects or artificial reverb strictly forbidden.” All of these recordings were then masterfully molded into one long, immersive, agape-inducing dark ambient track.
“Torridon Gate” could easily be a top notch Lustmord spookhouse, a rather innovative ambient dub techno album, or a really far out hi-fi test record from the late ’50s. Squeaking hinges are given gull wings, while phantom harmonics are transformed into Dalek Death Knells. Seriously, Ms. Derbyshire and Mr. Hodgson would be proud.
What makes for a masterful dark ambient recording is a topic of great interest to us, as there is no textbook on the matter. It is a subjective thing, dependent on the listener. It’s kind of ironic, that for all of the hours and months of years of listening to, dissecting, and commenting on abstract music of all kinds, we must fall back on “you know it when you hear it.” But that’s part of the joy! And when we find it, when we hear something that stands the hair on our arms on end, we know to peer closer, to investigate, and try and learn something.
In the case of “Torridon Gate”, and all of Robin The Fog and Howlround’s output, the care with which these soundworlds are constructed is communicated, even subliminally. You get the sense of creators’ hands; you can feel the seismic fissures of razors on tape. The composers have taken their times to layer and arrange these deep rumbling tones, and high scraping frequencies MEANT SOMETHING to the creators, even if they were working intuitively. They seem to have an idea in mind, some sort of narrative, which prevents this from being merely a preset-hacking snoozefest of static noise and flat drones. Instead, you have a slowly unfurling soundworld, that sucks you in, that will make you see stars.
Have you ever looked so closely at an object that it ceases to make sense? Where it is no longer a recognizable object. “Torridon Gate” is the sound of looking really, really closely at a gate in London. The closer you get, the deeper you sink, as you begin to wonder about all the people who have passed through it, and by it. You wonder about who made it, even wonder on its material make-up. There is so much mystery, in one inanimate object. That is the joy of these hand-modulated field recordings – they change the way you look and listen to the world around you. They engage you, as an antidote to crass capitalism and marketing, which doesn’t want you to peer further, only wants you to be easily manipulated and consume, consume, consume!
We strive to locate mastery in all of the genres that we write about, to guide us all through the dithering digital noise that threatens to fog our life. In this, Howlround are a guiding light, leading us back into our lives, our own art. They teach us to pay attention to the world around us, and to dream up worlds never before imagined. Something distinctive and unique and highly personal, which then becomes universal, oddly enough.
“Torridon Gate” was released in limited Day and Night editions, from the awe-inspiring A Year In The Country, who are doing great work in bringing insightful art, quality objects, and meaningful discourse into the ether. A Year In The Country, and Howlround, continue to be an inspiration, as well as a very useful archive of avant-garde 20th Century experimental music techniques and philosophies.