Longform Editions out of Sydney, Australia, is dedicated to “creating a space for extended, immersive music pieces from around the world.” Founder Andrew Khedoori has said in interviews that he wanted to create a forum for long-playing work and deep listening as a kind of antidote to the ways listening habits have been manipulated and truncated by the instant access of streaming services. As he put it in this article:
“I get the feeling, if only anecdotally, that there’s a lot of skipping going on… Because streaming platforms are so easily accessible, you might not treat the music with as much consideration and care as you would if you’ve spent money on a physical product.”
Who isn’t guilty of this? It’s all too easy to blow past something if your interest begins to flag for a millisecond, and you haven’t actually purchased the music you’re listening to. No investment? No commitment. Next.
But why should everything come to us so easily? What’s so troubling about making an effort to understand something? Why not meet the artist halfway? Some music comes to you, some music you have to make an effort to get with. Much of the music that challenges me becomes the music I continue to listen to. The music I grow with, that grows and changes with me.
A fraction of the music I’ve heard at Longform Editions easily fits into that category. And there’s much there to discover.
Current Harmonics by Jasmine Guffond is built around the influence of harmonics in electrical currents and waveforms, and was presented as a sound installation at the Linach Dam in Germany’s Black Forest. Through sonically mimicking the energy produced by the flow of water through the dam and the shifting frequencies in the current harmonics, Guffond creates a feed of throbbing tones that braid and blend, soar and plunge, harmonize and diverge. To sit and listen to it is both galvanizing and daunting, like having a staring contest with your better self. What really gets me about it though, among the many sensations it stirs up, is the ways my breathing gets synced with the piece’s fluctuations. I feel this music – and it is deeply musical – and ride it out, all its ups and downs, every time I listen to it. It’s unnervingly immediate, an inhuman yet uncannily emotional creation, and when it ends, I want to go back and listen to it all over again.
Spencer Stephenson, aka Botany, composed Fourteen 45 Tails from the final beats and run-out grooves taken from a stack of 45s stashed near his workspace. After making a loop of each recording, he positioned and layered them in an ever-widening sonic space. What starts as a kind of cyclically accruing inventory in which you’re consciously aware of each note sung, each ringing plink on the piano, each scrap of pop and hiss kicked up from the old vinyl as it appears and then repeats, becomes, through repetition and the strategic use of reverb, a free-floating trip into a glowing, resonating, celestial realm. It is a merciful release of yourself from yourself. As Stephenson puts it:
“While some of the singles I sampled were acquired during record store trips as expected, most found their way to me from the collections of deceased relatives. This reminded me of a theory that a friend of mine mentioned when his grandmother passed away: that maybe the afterlife is actually the tiniest sliver of time right before brain activity ceases, stretched out by some neurochemical mechanism as to become a virtually infinite dream-state, so that a life seems to never quite end to the one living it. In reference to that idea, Fourteen 45 Tails is made out of the final moments of fourteen records that once belonged to people who’ve long since lived – or from another perspective may still be living – their own final moments.”
Fourteen 45 Tails is a powerful, positive requiem, comparable in my thinking to early recordings of Gavin Bryars’ magisterial The Sinking of The Titanic. Check it out:
Windblow by Ekin Fil (Ekin Üzeltüzenci) begins with four long, distant, plaintive notes. Before they can complete a second cycle, a sour note cuts in, almost like an old, piping “error” sound on a computer, followed by an intermittent rumbling. From there, Windblow gently throbs and glowers, ringing with muffled guitar sustain, occupying space while refusing to assume a shape. Fil’s voice drifts in, breathy, fading in and out, until a massive, metallic resonance takes up, pushing everything aside. As the song hovers, textures evolve but the elements the music is made from never change. The melody – one note, maybe two – persist. There’s a process at work, nothing arbitrary, but still wholly mysterious. Then, as the melody begins to change, to brighten even, the piece fades to silence, just before something new begins.
Fil describes Windblow as an audible interpretation of “the mingling of different perspectives of an image or various perceptions of a sound from different angles.” For its remainder, it continues to do just that, shifting modes and moods while orbiting some unnamed object or idea, maybe even orbiting notions of perception itself.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bold graphics on the cover of each album at Longform, graphics that on closer inspection reveal a kinetic, semaphore-like typography. I will also mention that Andrew Khedoori is the founder of Preservation Music, one of those labels like Factory or Warp or Miasmah that, through the power of their design work alone – cheers to Mark Gowing – can convince me to buy their music before I’ve heard a note.
But more to the point, I think Longform is offering up some striking, inventive, adventurous music, and plenty of it. In these days of lockdown and sheltering-in-place, what better time could there be for not only exploring it, but really listening to it.