More recently via his solo work, most notably 2017’s Cruel Optimism and 2014’s Wilderness of Mirrors Australian artist Lawrence English has developed a quite remarkable heavy ambience, a kind of intense wide screen grandeur that is imposing in its scope yet formless, operating with dense swells of layered cathartic sound. It’s work that is all about density and dynamics that is equally informed by ambient music as noise music, though felt less like the work of a musician than a force of nature.
Which makes his latest work so fascinating. And different. Near his Brisbane home is a 19th Century pipe organ in the Old Museum. If you go to English’s website his latest post reflects one of the last times he saw Tony Conrad. “minimalism is not about less, it’s about deeper,” Conrad told him. Welcome to Lassitude.
Whilst he has previously used the pipe organ in his previous aforementioned albums (who can tell?), this time there is no layering if disparate sound sources. It’s pure stark pipe organ drones. Forget everything you know about the church though, perhaps referencing his clear love of dynamic bass sounds, it’s all bottom end drones.
This is durational music. Two long pieces both 20 minutes plus. Everything moves slowly. Changes happen gradually if at all. There are no theatrics. Strangely enough, like the aforementioned albums which felt more like strange bombastic field recordings than composed material, you get the sense that the author is content to just shrink into the background, dusting off his fingerprints as he departs.
English dedicates each of the pieces, one to French electronic composer Eliane Radigue and the other to US minimalist composer, video artist and filmmaker Phill Niblock, which should give you some idea of the territory we’re heading into.
This is music for deep listening, and for changing the mood. Tonally it feels even more stripped down than his 2009 12K release A Colour for Autumn, but it’s similarly restrained. It’s music for density and oscillations. It’s music to fall into and not want to get out, where even the slightest addition or subtraction feels momentous.