Jasmine Guffond, the artist previously and simultaneously known as Minit and Jasmina Maschina, returns for Sonic Pieces with Yellow Bell, a record of emptying and endlessness. Her looping ambient works feel like black holes leading nowhere, but there's company in her voice; her vocals spread are spread lethargically and extensively, guiding the listener through their gloomy eternal adventure. When time stops, you'll want to listen to this record. Recommended for fans of Grouper and Chihei Hatakeyama
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With the hint of a pulse, Jasmine Guffond drifts away from this world forever. Her new record, ‘Yellow Bell’, is based on the disconnect felt in two polar opposites -- departing and returning. Through these six drones, she hoped to constantly renew a system of ideas and sounds that are tethered to reality; as she puts it in the record’s liner notes, “a fundamental tone that relates to society’s place in the cosmic order, and the idea that this tone should be adjusted from time to time”. True to her inspiration, ‘Yellow Bell’ is alive with centrepieces that keep it somewhere between our world and the whole universe outside of it.
Each time she starts to slip away, Guffond’s droning landscape gets rearranged. At first it’s around the crackle of opener “Yellow Bell”, and on “Elephant”, which curls around warped synth sounds for an overwhelming lifetime, the moment of clarity is Guffond’s own voice, one which comes in for a session of slightly modulated repetitions. As it disappears, the song turns to chiming bells that seem to interrupt the total and unsettling lucity ‘Yellow Bell’ is trying to present. Ultimately, drone makes more sense when we’ve got someone to shape it for us: like Grouper piercing through her walls of instrumented drone on ‘Dragging’ and ‘Ruins’, Guffond’s voice seeks us out and pulls us into the drone world’s safe house.
The samples of conversation that seep through the crystalline ambient sounds of “Lisa’s Opening” are enough to remind us of drone’s communal capacities: it doesn’t have to be a solitary thing, this genre, and as Guffond has shown in her research into the Chinese tradition of “yellow bells”, it can even trace through a lineage of artists, people and ideas. She continues to interpose her own vocal with this song, occasionally introducing beats that appear only for a second and offer an appropriately subliminal weight. It helps heighten the drone’s importance: suspended and carried onward through a torrent of activity, it’s something that matters to us. The plural is important. ‘Yellow Bell’ may be an ominous work at times, but its resolve is warm
9/10 the platitudipus 1st February 2015
With the addition of occasional vocals very much in the Liz Harris style, it's tempting to file this alongside other Grouper inspired groups from a brief soundclip. Or to file it alongside the 8 billion drone albums that the 21st century has managed to spawn so far. But this album is actually something else entirely -- six very considered, subtle ambient electronic compositions which run the gamut from very deep bass frequencies to gentle passages of almost neo-classical calm. It's full of drones, Grouper-esque vocals, '70s tangerine dream style motorik synths, field recordings, glitches, overamped sounds, and it's designed to take the listener on a meditative journey. Itt's beautifully realised and incredibly effective - at once hard to predict what will happen next - at the same time making perfect sense when it does happen.
All of the is complemented by the mastering which is truly exceptional. Even at the amp set to half volume, the way this record has been mastered and cut - there are low frequencies here which shake my speakers to their very core in a way Earth 2 could only dream of and the purity of the sound (when wanted) is just gorgeous.
Then top that off with a handmade sleeve, an enigmatic image on the inner sleeve, and a fascinating 200 or so words on the flip to enlighten you to the thought processes behind this work and you have a record where everyone involved has excelled themselves. Absolutely adore this and if this style of music is your bag then I'd say definitely look closer at it.
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