‘Sculptures’ is Alex Ives (AKA Specimens) most ambitious and daring project to date, following on from releases on underground imprint A Giant Fern, Amsterdam-based Shimmering Moods Records & the collaborative Specimens x Daniel Wiesmayr release, ‘Water & Concrete’ on London’s Tenderly Surrender – the title track of which soundtracked a short from film maker & director, Sophie Littman, premiered via Nowness.
Wearing his influences on his sleeve and with a nod to past and present noise pioneers such as Throbbing Gristle, Leyland Kirby, K.Leimer and Ben Frost, ‘Sculptures’ sonically pans between the dream-like fog heard on the track’s ethereal closer, ‘French Morning’, as well as, ‘Cerulean Forest’, and cold industrial textures prevalent on tracks such as ‘A Marble Hallway’ or ‘Thuvian’.
The lighter, more melodic passages perfectly hold together the record’s jagged, abrasive undertones, occasionally leaning towards a more classical feel in a way the likes of William Basinski and Sean McCann display with regular expertise – best illustrated on the tracks ‘Piano Loops’ and ‘VI.VI.MMXV’.
Ives, who also holds a monthly residency on London’s Radar Radio, said of this release “I didn’t want to make a record intentionally difficult to listen to, but I wanted uncomfortable moments. It was important for me to try and make the record sound as human as possible and in some places distinctly live”
This ‘human’ feel discussed by Specimens is partly achieved through utilising samples of Sudanese wrestling & Tuvan Throat Singing, adding a charm that prevents the record from ever feeling too slick.
Mastered by iconic sound artist and Room 40 label boss, Lawrence English – a man who also was a key influence in the sonic palette harnessed by Specimens.
What a deceptively wonderful album!
By starting in such an assuming, informal manner, one might think is just a vanity recording of an amateur choir. But the pieces quickly progress to reveal a terrific choir performing compelling arranged pieces.
The real highlight, though, is the final piece; a top-drawer ambient montage of all that preceded it. It's beautiful.
But this is still an album, where each piece builds towards the last.
Fans of vocal ambience need to check it out. Michael Mueller