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Yann Novak: The Future Is a Forward
Escape Into the Past

Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary
artist Yann Novak recorded this work of characteristically droning
minimalism as his second release for esteemed UK label Touch. In
contrast to the single track of his previous Touch release
Ornamentation, The Future Is a Forward Escape… is comprised of four
shorter tracks. (Short for Mr. Novak is in this case around ten
minutes, admittedly a fraction of his usual hourlong excursions.) In
Touch’s press release, Novak elaborates in his own words on the
album’s title and concept: “For
this album I was interested in expanding into a more emotive
compositional style and palette. In doing so, I was reminded that
this was territory I had covered early on in my career — the whole
process became a way to reconnect with my own past and history.”
That tipping of his hand toward a more emotive style will come
through more obviously for seasoned listeners of Novak’s œuvre, but
that does not mean that The Future Is a Forward Escape… is not
still largely shapeless and droning. It is both of those things, and
Novak does them here as effectively as ever.

The Future is a Forward Escape into the Past by Yann Novak

“Radical Transparency”
manages to be serene and yet bristles with a tension that feels
palpable, like a Rothko painting in aural form. “The Inertia of
Time” feels like a flipside to the opener’s flared temper, a gloomy
chord anchoring it for the duration. Some of its minor chord drones
feel like a purification and sustained still from the 20th
century minimalists, a second suspended in time. The same can be said
about “Nothing Ever Transcends Its Immediate Environment,” whose
droning chord also feels like a dense cloud, unmoving in space. But
some of the most interesting sound design of the album is in its
layering of these more evocative tones with field recordings and
acoustic sound. Those often serve as the bridging elements between
the more overt tonal segments, whether in the form of light bird
chatter or a tiny Geiger-like crackle. The entire album feels like
one continuous work, despite its discrete tracks and titles, and that
is a plus for this listener. It features some of Novak’s most
emotionally immediate material that I’ve heard, but feels like a
lateral extension of his strengths and ethos rather than a diversion.

Buy it: Bandcamp