Tuesday, 18 February 2014
There's an amazing scene in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's seminimal film Uncle Boonmee where a dead man appears in a forest as a black, gorilla like spirit. His red eyes are the only recognizable feature on his otherwise completely silhouetted body. As a viewer it feels like you are only seeing a small glimpse of him, a fragment in a moment that feels extremely frangible. This transience is is juxtaposed by the resilience and abundance of the jungle behind. Neil Mcdonald' as Lord of the Isles seems to work in a similar way to this striking image. The backgrounds to his music (the percussion, organic samples etc) feel unchanging and robust but the music in front (the melodies and synth washes) feel completely of the moment and fleeting. You feel like you are only hearing a small part of a much grander whole. Sounds are brought in and out without much regard for progression that makes the songs sound like they are gliding. They bring you into a universe that is so easy to feel lost in. His work shares similar ground with house-trippers like Juju & Jurdash and Vakula, but while there work has a lightness that demands to be heard in a open and grand space, Mcdonald's work feels more immersive and insular.
Over the past few years he has released a steady stream of excellent 12"s on labels like Unthank and Mule. He starts 2014 off with one of his best yet. 301c Symphony is a 5 track EP released on the Munich based label Permanent Vacation. It's a continuation of his idiosyncratic take on hazy house and disco with room for a lovely bit of ambiance at the end. The title track starts off beatless with a cavenous bassline that seems to flicker around itself. As the song progresses, utilitarian percussion maintains a steady beat while an almost free form collection of sounds unfold and undulate over the top. Co2o has a shuffle like rhythm that sounds like trees shaking in the wind while acid patterns and angelic strings float in and out. Fyne is the most dub influenced song of the release, with a reverb soaked piano taking the centre stage for most of the song. Horizon Effect seems to outdo John Talabot at being John Talabot, treading the same slo-mo disco ground but in a more subtle and engrossing way. The closer Western Electric is one of Mcdonald's most openly emotional tunes and perhaps the most stunning cut on this release. 3 minutes of bird song, crashing waves, unblemished strings, synth arpeggios and upfront piano manage to provide a fitting ending. This whole release feels like a futuristic, tropical garden party when Asia has eventually fulfilled it's potential and taking over the majority of the western world and filled it with tigers, palm trees and opiates.