Shelter Press’ remarkable run of 2017 releases ends in deep contemplation with this beautiful exploration of traditional Northern Indian classical music recorded with an experimental emphasis, carrying out the aural equivalent of zooms and close-ups, weaving between the minute details of sound and the more expansive effect on the listener. Recorded by artist Darren Almond, each of the pieces here corresponds to imagery from his eponymous video installation, shot in Rajasthan, 2012.
Revolving around recordings of Fateh Ali (Santoor, Manjira), Ghulam Gouse (Tabla), Roop Singh (Manjira), and Zakir Hussain (Bansari), All Things Pass seeks to connect the ancient Indian artform of the raga, whose time-based structures link the movement of the stars to earthly events, with the individual player’s emotions.
In this complex feedback loop of cosmic information and terrestrial expression, Almond operates as a sensory relay or transducer, using a shotgun microphone to document the instruments and synaesthetically offering a sort of sensory lens that regulates the liminal link between the macrocosmic, or universal, and the molecular, more human level of existence.
From its meter-melting Tabla drum pulses, to the refractive metallic shimmer of dulcimer-like Santoor and the Maniira hand cymbals, threaded with airborne stripes of flute-like Bansuri, the naturally fluid but closely disciplined results can be heard as a prism for realigning our Western-based and shaped perceptions of time. It’s really only when you fully comprehend how closely these things are linked in Indian classical culture that you may realise how restrictive and naive so much Western instrumental music, with its minor and major modes, and reliance on fixed time signatures, can be.
By that token, it’s not difficult to hear why the plasmic, meter and scale-dissolving possibilities of electronic music - when applied inventively - appeal to listeners who’ve become bored with the arrogance of Western convention. Effectively, All Things Pass ties all these ideas in a way that is self-evident, requiring the listener to simply allow themselves to interpret its expressive mathematics in their own way, and real unto themselves maths as the universal language.
It offers a soothing, thought provoking end to a tumultuous year, and marks Shelter Press as one of the most rewarding and diverse labels on the contemporary scene.