Date: August 2012
Cat & Format: HB44 | CD & DD
* Guitar Erik Schoster
Autistici is Sheffield, UK based composer/sound designer David Newman. He has released his work through Home Normal, 12k and Kesh, as well as his own label Audiobulb. His sound is characterised by the attention he pays to tiny detail, right from capturing the sound, carefully developing it and onto the stage where he sets them all together to create a new sound context from several disparate sources.
His first album for Hibernate is Beneath Peaks, which explores the ancient countryside of the Peak District, UK through its eleven tracks. The sounds you will hear were harvested from hikes and camping trips around the region’s hills, meadows, streams and bracken edged pathways. In the opening track ‘Asleep Beneath Nests’ you can even hear David snoring at Fieldhead campsite as he lay asleep in a tent!
The Peak District is a vast expanse of landscape and skyline. Within it there are nestled sheltered areas, ancient pathways and sites, mysterious caves and imposing rock formations. It seemed natural that David would respond to his fond affinity with this historic area in the form of sound design and composition. The album cover was taken by David himself as he spent a day walking from The Fox House down to Castleton. It gives an indication of the expansiveness and wonderful hues of the rocks and sky.
Aside from the wealth of carefully sculpted and assembled fragments that were taken in the Peak District, David has woven in a melodic element to accompany the narrative; drawing from the sounds of piano, guitar, synthesizers and electronics. The sound processing was often channelled through a software module created by Christopher Hipgrave, called AMBIENT. Additional guitar on 'Edge Over Millstone View’ was provided by Erik Schoster.
Image: David Newman
Mastering: Ian Hawgood
Beneath Peaks (Autistici’s debut release on Hibernate Recordings) is an interpretive sound narrative of a walking and camping tour through the Peak District in the central UK; a luminous and expansive journey with a strong sense of place. The region is geologically diverse with
moorland plateaus, expanses of millstone grit escarpments, limestone and demarking zones at the edges of the long-ago eroded strata. I
have been fortunate to take long walks in similar places: Devon (The Burrows in Saunton) and on Exmoor in the southwestern UK, and Beneath Peaks is certainly an enticement to travel to this varied pastoral upland region.
Even before the music, I was struck by the hues, varying landscape and seemingly endless sky in the cover photo (quite similar to Exmoor in
some respects). The photo is also illustrative of Autistici’s work, which ranges from outwardly expansive to inwardly minute explorations; the literal and abstract in a landscape that is both known yet still mysterious.
Instrumentation throughout the album is both recognizable and veiled, and includes piano, guitar, synthesizer and electronics, in addition to sculpted fragments of extensive field recordings captured during the trip (processed with the help of Christopher Hipgrave’s software module AMBIENT). Additional guitar on Edge Over Millstone View was provided by Erik Schoster.
Beneath Peaks is book-ended by two sleep-states: an awakening (the beginning of the journey at a campsite named Fieldhead) and a closing
to slumber and inward contemplation (at the ancient Carl Wark). Throughout there is a deep sense of observation and contemplation, both in the literal field recordings and abstract sonic interpretations of the journey.
Asleep Beneath Nests (Fieldhead) is a deftly woven tapestry of field, avian and human sounds, rising with the sun (while human slumbers).
Edall is the sound of breathing and pulsing; movement through this timeless area. Edall is a 16th century variant spelling of the village of Edale and was once known as the “Valley of the River Noe”; the start of the Pennine Way, a trail in this district. Mam Tor Soarers’ Workshop; starts in what appears to be in a woodworker’s shop. This is a region known for hang and para-gliding. As this track progresses, it transitions from being grounded to having a sense of weightlessness. The latter section (and I am speculating) appears to be a bit of an homage to Raymond Scott’s rhythmic and melodic electronic Bass-Line Generator (of 1967). Styx is a brief and quiet transition into Edge Over Millstone View. The sound is sharp and panoramic in contrast to other areas of rolling pasturelands elsewhere in this region (a reference to the geology, I speculate).
The rocky echoed sounds of Padley Gorge give the sense of passing through the deep narrow wooded valley near the village of Grindleford. Burbage Brook is at the base of the gorge. Noe (Upper Booth) is a small tributary to the River Derwent and forms a sonic respite before a pulsating encounter with Mulgrave’s Dining-Room. Aidale (I believe, another early variant spelling of the village Edale) is at first, a delightful contrast to Mulgrave’s; a meandering solo piano, which then drifts into an altered dream-state and transitions to the apparent sounds of traffic passing or is it time bending? Peveril’s Open Door brings us to the environs of Castleton and the nearby Peveril Castle, which overlooks the village with sounds of birds, nearby waterway and the piano returns. The end of the journey is Sleep State For Carl Wark, the rocky promontory in Hatersage Moor (believed to be the site of an Iron Age hill fort). It is here that memories of the distant past flow into and blend with the present, and sleep returns with music box and strings; the end of a captivating journey.
Autistici is Sheffield-based (UK) sound artist David Newman. He is the curator of the Audiobulb (where I discovered the marvelous work of Monty Adkins) and Audiomoves record labels. To date, Autistici has released a number of acclaimed albums on the 12k, Home Normal and Keshhhhhh labels, amongst others.
This record is one of the most enigmatic of my recent listenings and its mysterious opening puts listeners in a unexplainable quandary: how's it possible that Sheffield-based sound designer David Newman manages to sleep and snore so blissfully in spite of the remarkable hullabaloo by all those birds?!? Jokes apart, this fascinating sonic journey offered by the artistic identity of Audiobulb label-owner through the breathtaking spots of Peak District, one of the most enchanting region of Northern England, covering Northern Derbyshire and parts of Cheshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester, and base of the first national park in United Kingdom, begins with the nice "Asleep Beneath Nests", recorded while David was resting at Fieldhead campsite, and go on over suggestive airy abstract ambient tracks, mostly spotted by field recordings grabbed during his explorative walks. The awakening in the small village of Edale ("Edall"), the intense activity of climbers and paragliding maniacs with noises of hammering and gear nearby Mam Tor hill ("Mam Tor Soarers' Workshop"), the thuds on the boulders melting with the sound of the breeeze and the luminous trembling of solar rays over the trees in the idyllic walking over Burbage Brook ("Padley Gorge"), the incredible subterranean acoustic of Blue John Cavern ("Mulgrave's Dining Room") are just some of the moments of this pleasant sonic travelguide of places in the heart of United Kingdom I was lucky to have visited some years ago, whose memory has been vividly rekindled by Autistici's release. I cannot but thank David Newman for this sweet reverie as well as recommend the listening of this great ambient souvenir.
From the echoing zoo of sound that is the kick-off aural structure here, you know you're on interesting ground with an Autistici release.
David W Newman is an experimental sound artist of visionary proportions, his productions are steeped in eccentricity, grace, discordance
and mystery, no mere minimal drones and twittering field recordings for him. He likes to get his hands dirty if it were, delving into sonic
possibilities to create ambient music that is teeming with life and bristling with character.
He finds the secret door that opens between gently morphing stillness and the often jarring noise of life. I mean, the third track suddenly has some fucker hammering loudly a couple of minutes in, yet it comes across as weirdly metronomic and fits perfectly within the context of the piece. Well worth checking out is anything this guy creates, even his drone works get beautifully entangled in your mind, displaying tactile frayed edges and a real depth of personality. I think this offering for Hibernate is one of the best yet!
Over the course of a decade or so Autistici has quietly accrued a series of accomplished releases across a range of bespoke labels – from
12k to Home Normal to Keshhhh, not forgetting his own Audiobulb. On a break from the ‘bulb, the artist known to his Mum as David Newman hikes over to nearby Hebden Bridge cottage industry, Hibernate (3view here), via which he delivers Beneath Peaks, an interpretive audio document of a walking-camping tour. The Sheffield recordist captured sounds from the ground around the eponymous Peak District, mixing them with piano, guitar, and synth, with further tweakings from the Audiobulb-approved Ambient software module (designed by Christopher Hipgrave, featured, notably, on his Low Point album).
For all its sprawl of sparse landscape and sweeping skyline, it’s not so much grand gestures or big themes these peaks inspire Newman to.
Rather, beneath them, he finds smaller hermetic spaces, though occasional expansive shifts in between make for a satisfying variation in
dynamic. His research interests in inner-outer land-sound inter-scape, emblematized in cover art, are pursued through melodic motifs nested inside field sounds, here discreetly treated, there left to their own devices. “Asleep Beneath Nests (Fieldhead)” first locates us in slumber-bound sunrise with a montage of nature tones—animal and human. The Autistici touch is evident in their rhythmic harnessing, as what might have remained mere field flutter is transformatively tweaked. A cornucopia of stylings and soundings follows in a clutch of cameos and varied vignettes, from the ambient wash of “Styx” to “Aidale,” meandering piano echoing Eno’s Airports, drifting into altered dream-states and transitions to faraway traffic passing by. The echoing delight of “Padley Gorge” evokes skies above and rocky terrain beneath, while “Edall” hosts breathy streams and swells. “Noe (Upper Booth)” brings repose before more dynamic dronescapes, “Mulgrave’s Dining Room” and “Edge Over Millstone View,” the latter with textural turbo from Erik Schoster’s guitar. Fellow feeling is found between shifting stillness and jarring motion on “Mam Tor Soarers’ Workshop.” Journey’s end comes with “Sleep State For Carl Wark,” as sleep returns to the strains of music box and strings.
Beneath Peaks, then, finds Autistici homing in on a sweet spot between a kind of updated musique concrète and more musically concrete
expression. No join-the-dots field-recording drone-by-numbers peddler he, but a hands-dirty delver into the audio mulch, forging electro-
acoustic pieces of contemplative charm marked with dissonant turns and an antic spirit. Newman’s luminous treatments musicize sheltered
sites, ancient paths, and rugged rocks alike in a set of pen-portraits both affectingly familiar and appealingly unheimlich.
In a field of music where the soundscape artist is increasingly challenged to find ways to distinguish his or her work from others, Sheffield,
UK-based sound designer and Audiobulb overseer David Newman manages to do exactly that on this debut outing for the Hibernate label,
specifically by striking a careful balance between musique concrète and conventional compositional form. That is, a given piece on Beneath
Peaks might weave harmonic and melodic patterns into an accessible (if detail-intensive) structure, but it also does so by integrating within it real-world sound sources that largely retain their natural character. In this case, those natural sounds come from the ancient countryside of the Peak District in the United Kingdom where Newman collected them during hiking and camping explorations through the region's pathways, caves, and rock formations. Though Beneath Peaks draws heavily upon this mini-library of nature-derived material, Newman strikes that aforesaid balance by weaving instrument sounds of piano, guitar, synthesizers and electronics into the eleven settings.
Right away Newman situates us within a nature environment when “Asleep Beneath Nests” presents us with a dense stream of bird calls and
animal grunts (and, later, the sound of a snoring Newman asleep in a tent at the Fieldhead campsite). But the sounds aren't randomly
distributed; instead, Newman arranges those source elements so that a lulling rhythm establishes itself, and what might in another's hands
have been a field recordings-based portrait instead becomes in Newman's a formal composition. His penchant for leaving sampled sounds in
their natural form is evidenced perhaps most conspicuously during “Mam Tor Soarers' Workshop” when the literal sound of someone
hammering appears alongside the tiny sputter of electronic squiggles and tones.
In amongst an ambient-drone setting such as “Mulgrave's Dining Room,” which sparkles with an irrepressible, clandestine glow, are pieces that lend Beneath Peaks a satisfying multi-dimensionality: “Edge Over Millstone View” receives an additional textural boost from the contributions of guitarist Erik Schoster to the shimmering ambient-dronescape, while the piano-centric opening of “Aidele” could be read as an overt homage to Eno's Music For Airports, specifically the Robert Wyatt-Eno collab with which the recording begins, even if Newman gradually blurs the connection between the two pieces when his piano morphs into liquidy thrum that's repeatedly accented by a recurring whoosh (traffic noise perhaps?). “Padley Gorge” calls to mind a setting filled with wide expanses overhead and rocky terrain below, such that one can picture the scene even if one has never visited the site; in that regard, the cover photograph, taken by Newman, functions effectively as a visual correlate to the musical material on this finely crafted collection.
Sheffield resident David Newman is perhaps best known for his role as curator of the Audiobulb and Audiomoves labels. However, for around
the past decade, Newman has also been creating music under the moniker Autistici and has released a slew of albums and EP’s on a veritable who’s-who of influential labels – such as 12k, Home Normal and Keshhhh, in addition to his own two imprints. Here he appears on Hibernate Recordings with Beneath Peaks, an album which proves Autistici’s ability to stand out from the crowd once again.
Newman has previously professed an interest in exploring the interplay between the inner and outer world, in addition to including the minutest details of a particular sound. Though an artists opinion of their own music isn’t always the best place to get an unvarnished perspective, Newman’s years running his labels has clearly given him the ability of a bird’s eye view on his own music as this encapsulates his approach perfectly.
Beneath Peaks kicks off with Asleep Beneath Trees and environmental sounds take center stage, causing this listener to presume the course
of the album thus set. However, as Newman works through the miniature ambient wash of Styx and the piano tones of Aidele, he produces
such varied styles and sounds that one can’t help but be impressed. Sometimes these disparate elements combine and at other times the
artist is content to let them take their own course, but the vision as a whole remains cohesive.
Like virtually any album, Beneath Peaks contains some territory which has been trodden both by the artist himself and others too, but rarely are so many eclectic ideas brought together with such taste, and herein lies the artist’s talent. Newman reveals himself to be somebody who is a genuine lover of all music and this depth of knowledge transforms an album which could so easily have been merely “good” into something which should not be overlooked.
From the house of Hibernate comes a new release by David Newman, also known as Autistici, and probably best known for releases on his
own label Audiobulb, but also on Home Normal and 12K. In the older days Newman explored also electro-acoustic qualities of music, but now his work is more about captured field recordings and drone like sounds. He plays piano, guitar, synthesizers and electronics, and I think he processes his field recordings quite extensively; at least there is mentioning of software called Ambient (by one Christopher Hipgrave). All of the field recordings were made in the Peak District, an area which I haven't visited, so I couldn't tell wether Newman creates accurate audio pictures of the place. I am sure he does. England is quite empty with a few concentrations with lots people in it, so to have a bit of 'empty' music is nothing strange. In fact, Newman's music is not that empty at all, but one needs to turn up the volume a bit, and lots more unfold itself, which seems buried underneath. This is music that sees a fine combination of ambient patterns and glitchy movements and perhaps as such is not much new under the sun, but I guess that's not saying something new. However, the addition of musical elements, the tinkling of a guitar for instance, the plink of a piano and such like add not only a bit musicality to the music, also a great deal of warmth is added.
An excellent work no doubt. Only 250 copies were made of this one.