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Elemental States

by Joe Evans

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Air 3 Gas 10:32


As with his previous release on Spectropol (“Septimal” - 2014), with "Elemental States" Evans merges poetic and scientific ideas into compelling music that transcends its extramusical guides. In this case the classical elements are paired with the states of matter and prime numbers, realized with mellow metallic pitch sources and juxtaposed field recordings for the first four tracks, and with synthesis in the fifth.

Elemental States is a mostly meditative experience, sonically rich and gently paced, yet full of surprises to the attentive listener.

Evans says:
"Some time ago I realised that an analogy could be made between the 4 classical elements (Fire, Water, Earth and Air) and what is now known to be the 4 states of matter (Solid, Liquid, Gas and Plasma). Not a unique idea I’m sure but it fascinated me that some hint of the truth could be glimpsed within this erroneous conclusion.

About a year ago I was reminded of the idea and I thought it would be interesting to extend the analogy further by pairing each state or element to groups of intervals with ratios that included certain prime numbers:
Earth 2 Solid
Air 3 Gas
Water 5 Liquid
Fire 7 Plasma
Aether 11 Virtual

I was already exploring the possibility that intervals generated this way may have common characteristics and perhaps these could, in some way, mirror the elements. It should be noted that there is nothing innately linking any one number to a particular state and in a couple of cases the timbre of the sounds dictates the harmony of the piece more than the notes themselves.

To complete the pieces, I superimposed environmental field recordings relating to each element. I have been collecting recordings over the last 30 odd years and apart from the sound of the fire burning in the grate, I already had everything I needed. Quite a few of these field recordings were captured on cassette in the 1980s and have been hanging around ever since for an opportunity like this to be used.

The final 5th element Aether is somewhat of an aberration, being supposedly the material making up the heavens and having no equivalent as a state of matter in nature. It has however been hugely influential as an idea, lending its name to one of the most widely used communications technologies, Ethernet. This technology forms part of the bedrock of the virtual world we know as the Internet. Whilst the first four elements used only acoustic sounds with no artificial reverberation, the last element is created synthetically, reflecting an imagined virtual state of matter.

Like the pieces themselves, the title “Elemental States” is an amalgam and, as far as I can tell, not a scientific term. The concept of the classical elements has been explored in many ways artistically and spiritually through the years and has become embedded in mysticism both old and new. While I certainly hope the listener will connect emotionally or even spiritually to the work, it should be understood that it is not inspired by spiritual ideas."

"The result is a still, slow-paced or even static experience, which you may find equally calming and meditative, or somnolent and enervating.

The first piece, “Fire 7 Plasma”, features glass chimes sometimes sounding like porcelain water bowls, then the crackling and snapping of what might be a rain-dampened campfire plus close-mic’d muffled rustling and breath sounds; also aerial whistling – bonfire night fireworks, if I’m not mistaken. It’s both absorbing and static; quirkily fun to place or dissect the constituent sounds, but then inviting lulling acceptance and mental drift.

Even more static, “Earth 2 Solid” focuses on gong-strike timbres and diffused, time-slowed and muffled sampled sounds. So “Water 5 Liquid” comes as a waker-upper: a sampled water course carrying a charge of cold clarity through gongs that are deeper and more reverberant than anything that’s come before, albeit becoming more occluded as a pall of taped rainfall blankets everything.

On “Air 3 Gass”, too, the listener is situated in a soundscape of exposure to, or at best poor shelter from the elements. Radiant chime-blooms are an aurally warming touch even as the ear pricks to the sound of wind – a gale, no less – buffeting over canvas.

And so to the aforementioned “Ether 11 Virtual” – sound as whirring, gently pulsing emanations that slowly concentrate and contract until coming to a sudden stop. After the bounded elemental eternities of the preceding pieces, its irrevocability comes as a reminder of our own stark finitude."
- Dalston Sound

"...a consistent high quality."
- Vital Weekly


released October 29, 2015

SpecT 39




spectropolrecords Bellingham, Washington

Spectropol Records is a friendly netlabel devoted to excellent music unbound by venue and commerce; it’s a destination for adventurous music beyond journalistic and commercial style/genre classifications.

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