Richard Ginns – Fall, Rise (Twice Removed Records, 2014)

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Richard Ginns made this record because he almost died. That’s a rather dramatic way to open an introduction to your album, or a review, but his inspiration for this release was being caught in a snowstorm and whiteout conditions whilst in the French Alps. One might very well make the assumption that the music within the record will be heavy, cloying, dark ambient constructions filled with fear and morbid introspection, but the opposite largely appears to be true, as Richard instead focuses on the details and the minutiae of his surroundings rather than the tenuous situation at hand.

Opener “(Fall)” introduces us to the acute minimalism of the album as it immediately dives in at the failing visibility beginning of our story, careful to make note of the distinct lack of textural inclusions within its span, the absence of any useful or meaningful information in our surroundings, obliterated by snow. A hissing static unfolds in the backfield, a cornerstone of many of the tracks, supplemented by processed and fragmented drone elements and field recordings; every gurgle of water and crunch of the snow under our feet suddenly hyper-acute and important. The mind begins to play tricks as well, perhaps, in followup “The Colour of Winter” as it introduces bursts of voices and children’s distant murmurings intermittently, each one snatched away by the wind as abruptly as they appear. There’s something vaguely nostalgic in the sound though, something in the delicate presentation and increasing warmth through the track as its textures peak and birdsong arrives at the end that feels weirdly hopeful and optimistic, like an active retrospection.

This sound is at odds with the expected mournful and depressed air of this album, which does make an appearance despite everything. “Warm Now” feels like the slow realisation of the succumbing to hypothermia as it spins out delicate webs of vaguely menacing and melancholic drones, suddenly low-fidelity and arrived in pulses of activity, moments of lucidity in an otherwise fading mind. They go well with the alarm bells that ring suddenly and shockingly out through this hazy void, and supplement the murmuring of concerned and far-away voices that settle deep in the mix, full of tension and worry as they whisper unintelligible nothings wondering how and where we are. It goes well with one of the album’s strongest pieces, the beautiful 8 minuter “Drifting, Almost Covered” where violin makes a mournful and heavy appearance in its slow drones and increasingly decaying production. The sound of rustling rain and snow becomes thicker and heavier as the piece goes on, an increasing sense of urgency unfolding as the snow gets deeper and our energy is depleted. Truly a striking track.

In between the two is the anxious couplet of “Beneath Out Feet” and “Far From Home”, both entertaining similar sonic tropes as the former merges gracefully into the latter, its slow builds and delicate tinklings making way for more empowered guitar lines and stuttering, rolling glitch noises. Despite the chaos there’s a fragile beauty to both the pieces that’s slowly tempered and ballooning, gaining traction especially in the latter moments of “Far From Home” as things suddenly clear and shimmery, elongate drone notes rise in beautiful and hopeful celebration. It pairs well with the closer “(Rise)” which bookends the album, reinforcing those hopeful moments and abandoning the many fugues summoned up across its duration. There’s a certain elegance and smoothness to the music here; no longer shambling randomly along to the staccato glitch and confused, fragmented drone it glides sleekly on an icy placid drone line as bright little instrumental kisses break its surface, all falling softly away as we return home and to safety at last.

Certainly the context of the album changes its interpretation significantly,¬†especially since it almost feels at times like the sequence of the record is perhaps a little off, or does that perhaps simply reinforce it? The narrative as confused and tumultuous as the ordeal itself? I like this record as an experience, it’s deeply immersive in its storytelling, but I’m not sure I’m quite sold on the individual pieces outside of their home, with the exception of “Drifting, Almost Covered”; out of their framework they’re quite weak and it’s only when the album comes together as a single entity is their value really shown, but otherwise a solid album.

You can find the album on his Bandcamp page here.