Level is one of the many names used by British multimedia artist Barry G. Nichols to create a very special kind of ambient music which consists of a series of electronic drones that move through space, slowy taking shapes or surreptitiously receding.
There is a very peculiar organic quality to these pieces, the drones being mostly sculpted out of treated guitars or buried piano chords with a few bursts of isolated rhythm tracks here and there.
What makes them so special however is that all of the sounds are constantly taking part in some sort of dynamic dialogue. Not only is this bound to create some unpredictable combinations, but after a while you feel like the music has just acquired a life on its own ? a form that has just become independent from the performer?s influence.
Hence, the undeniable similarities these sound sculptures have with the cybernetic music of Roland Kayn, although the tracks here are decisively much shorter and more ?ambient?/ warm sounding. In this respect, they are more akin to the works of people like Stephan Mathieu, Akira Rabelais or Taylor Deupree.
However, it is also Nichols?s alleged goal to explore ?new areas of examinations? at the crossroads of music and architecture, ?to express something that cannot readily be categorised or put into words.? There are many aesthetic implications behind these considerations. Yet, the musical results are always stimulating and fascinating to listen to.
Take, for instance, the way each sound is being handled here. Actually, this CD could be seen to offer a series of melodic or textural variations in the vein of Stephan Mathieu?s ?W?rmloch Variationen? (which featured 3 variations on a single piano piece that could be heard at the end of this particular CD).
However, it is impossible here to isolate an ?original? matrix as the entire work is made up of a multitude of little sonic cells that are treated like an endless series of variations and potential sources. Here, Nichols?s ?transartistic? concerns are rendered all the more effective as such ?statements? always choose to operate in the most poetic kind of way. In other words, you can really hear the constant ?deterritorializations? at work within these shapeshifting sound forms, the movements of which resemble some kind of ballet. And again, the results are highly enjoyable, believe me !
Now that this has been approached from a more ?musical? perspective, I can?t wait to see/ hear how Nichols uses other media arts with similar purposes in mind. In the meantime, I cannot recommend this CD enough as it is a wonderful addition to Spekk?s already prestigious catalogue and one of the best electronic music albums I?ve heard this year. 9/10 -- Francois Hubert (31 July, 2006)