These images are mine though. Ezekiel Honig has his own. They provide the title for his fantastic new album and first for his own Anticipate label, Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band. Described as a work based on a once-dissolved band that's been pieced back together, the album sways between moments of studious musique concrète and shutter-lit urban ambience to pretty lively field recordings of busy public spaces, which lend the album the cheer of soft chatter. Honig uses manipulated guitar, horns, piano and plenty of found sound elements to construct a delicate atmosphere that, for all of its quiet, seems in steady flux.
Honig grounds his compositions in beats that are stockier than they appear from the top, without simply easing them into the steady, Gassy 4/4 throb. His rhythms are tactile and born of natural sources, from sparse ticks to muscular wooden bangs. "Broken Marching Band," for example, feels downright dubby in comparison to most electro-acoustic backdrops, its rhythms like a fat man out of breath aside what might be warbling horns and clips of children. Free of original sources, the recordings give Honig's composition an effervescence belied by its stern percussion.
But perhaps "A Brief Visual Pattern" gets at the dissolute element of Honig's title best. Resonant piano notes and pulses of muted noise spread into clicky stutter beats as shadow objects and desktop things fall to the floor in the background. "Material Instrument 1" is wistful, its re-pitched guitars cushioning bell-tones that are like coins dropped in a jar, muted but melodic. Partner "Material Instrument 2" plays up a sneaky friction between Honig's samples from a crowded room and metallic scraping. Honig unveils its fragile center just as this disorientation threatens to tip you over. It's an anthill symphony, one of small autumnal noise that illustrates his talent for giving the surface-pretty astounding nuance. In a creation like Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band which relies on such elusive drifts for locomotion, Honig's sure-handed subtlety is marked enough for declarative moments on my part: there hasn't been a better "ambient" album this year.
Wed / 22 Oct 2008
01. Porchside Prologue
02. Broken Marching Band
03. A Brief Visual Pattern
04. Seaside Pastures Part 2
06. Porchside Economics
07. Material Instrument 1
08. Material Instrument 2
09. Past Tense Kitchen Movement