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Bruce Gilbert and BAW: Diluvial (Touch)

Bruce Gilbert, best known for his founding and long-time role in Wire (until departing in 2004), paired up with the Beaconsfield ArtWorks duo (David Crawforth and Naomi Siderfin) for this conceptual exploration of environmental sound design. Like all Touch releases, it sports photography by label boss Jon Wozencroft and was sequenced and mastered by Russell Haswell, whose role should not be overlooked, as sequencing is a rather successful element to this collection. Diluvial has rising sea levels at the center of its concept, with seven slowly evolving pieces that focus heavily on field recordings from the beaches in Suffolk and London. That the number of pieces loosely correlates with the mythical seven days of Biblical Creation is surely no accident, either. Quite unlike any of Gilbert’s more conventional music of his Wire repertoire, Diluvial is extremely minimal and ambient at times, with a mood that ranges from tender to desolate, moment to moment. “Dry Land,” for instance, is all gusting wind and grimy, severe electronics, perhaps a commentary on nature’s brutality. At other times, where nature leaves off and the trio’s electronic experimentations start is less obvious. “The Expanse” begins with almost living electronic chirping before a crack of thunder makes nature’s presence known. Electronic drips and blips work in and out of recordings of rainfall to layer contrasting impressions of precipitation. The chirping found at the start of that piece points toward the notion of a digital organism, simulated but often convincing life — a contrast to the nature sounds and electronic squirming of the textural layers found in “Creates of Sea and Air” or “Beasts of the Earth.” It is clear, though, as Diluvial progresses, that it has a philosophy that plays out across its tracks from start to finish, building and gaining momentum just as the water level rises and all the concerns that come with it. Despite what are often droning sounds found in these arrangements, it is the tautness of those layers that really informs the overall aesthetic of this music. And despite its occasional overt foray into field recordings, it is far from restful. Tension is the unifying thread throughout these pieces, evolving from a textural drone in opener “The Void” through to the more shrill chirps of “Beasts of the Earth” and the subsequent dark decay of “Rest/Reflection.”

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