5 Oct 2013

Plinth "Music For Smalls Lighthouse" Review

Reviewed by Jason Simpson

One of instrumental music's greatest qualities is it's ability to induce cinematic flights of fancy, limited only by your imagination. "Music For Smalls Lighthouse" follows in the tradition of classic psychodramas with a strong sense of place like the "Shutter Island" soundtrack or Ingram Marshall's "Alacatraz", putting the listener inside a rachety old lighthouse in Wales, using a refined pallet of glowingly recorded classical instruments, synth textures, and field recordings, gathered on location.
While the internet may be slowly (or rapidly) degenerating our attention spans, it also allows us to recall anything and everything. "Music For Smalls Lighthouse" first saw light as a sold-out CD-R in 2010, and is now getting a loving, much-deserved vinyl re-issue on Clay Pipe Music, with a brand new mastering job (courtesy of ISAN's Anthony Ryan) and new artwork from Frances Castle.
The album tells the tale of two friends, Thomas Griffin and Thomas Howell, who volunteered to tend the lighthouse for 6 months in the year 1800. Griffin was killed in an accident leaving Thomas Howell to fend for his sanity, with his friend's body lashed to the outside of the towering edifice. This slight LP, re-issued by Clay Pipe Music on vinyl, recounts the madness & solitude, simulating Thomas Griffin's gradually succumbing to the demons of his mind. It sounds like "The Shining" in a creaky wooden leviathan.
The classical themes blended with the field recordings make for an immersive listening experience; it's like you're IN the lighthouse, a moth on the portocullis. "Music For Smalls Lighthouse" illustrates one of music's most hallucinatory properties; it is much more visceral and emotional then either film or print. Music bypasses the conscious filters, and sinks deep into the unconsciousness, making for strange dreams indeed.
"Music For Smalls Lighthouse" is a classic imaginary soundtrack, a score-with-no-film. The field recordings, captured in glorious hi-fi, are unprocessed and unmanipulated, as are the classical instruments - the celeste, the viola and piano. It's just beautiful music made on beautiful instruments, lovingly mixed and mastered. It's classic and timeless, but it's also new and exciting! Michael Tanner is a brilliant chamber composer, with strong emotive melodies, harmonies and controlled dissonance. These traditional merits are expertly blended with swelling synth pads and the sounds of birds, waves and creaking wood, hanging together in perfect harmony and equilibrium, like one of Kandinsky's mobiles. This mastery points a way forward for both electronic musicians and classical composers. Take note! The gauntlet has been thrown.
"Music For Smalls Lighthouse" is mesmerizing, riding the wind and rain of the early Fall in the Pacific Northwest. It's an essential introspective Autumnal headspin that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Available here. 

Read more from Jason Simpson at Forestpunk.

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