Danny Clay – ganymede (Hibernate, 2015)


Danny Clay’s ganymede is a conceptual work; based off of the work of Schubert’s own “Ganymed”, Clay attempted with this record to capture the idea or sensation of drawing out Schubert’s first few moments of the piece, to create a record that’s sole purpose is to “prolong the beginning indefinitely”. It’s certainly an interesting premise and one with much potential, especially since it skews into the esoteric by building its repertoire of sound up through found sounds and field recordings, warping all of it through baby monitors and such things. Sadly, out of its three distinct movements spanning around 70 minutes, only the first collection of tracks really captures my attention in any meaningful way, the rest of it disappearing in rapidly decaying interest and decoherence.

This first movement is a series of six pieces, the Glow suite, clocking in at just shy of 30 minutes. It’s a really beautiful effort too; invoking some of Ian William Craig’s sensibilities in its ancient and fuzzed appearance it beautifully encapsulates feelings of wist and naivety in the face of impermanence, striving so hard to keep Schubert’s work alive but only becoming increasingly more frayed and incapable with every passing moment. “Glow I” introduces the suite’s idiosyncratic little putterings and delicate, warped strangeness, filling itself with thin drone waves and busy fragments of unnameable, reverbed textures. It’s an effortless and fragile affair that’s largely seamless; “Glow II” arrives in a perfect segue and takes a slightly different tack, focusing more on the tympanic elements of its former’s construction in the bell and glockenspiel-esque tappings, straining to keep the feeling alive. The middling movements of “Glow III” remain true to the established idiosyncrasies and keep things ticking over in its twinkly and harmonious warblings, while couplet 4 and 5 trough slightly as they dip into a tiny fugue, falling slightly into the backfield as they become quieter and more distant and feel like they lose a sense of purpose.

But the final piece “Glow VI” comes back strong as easily the best track of the album, instantly reversing the pessimism in the preceding pieces to create the brightest, warmest and most fully realised movement on the record, unwinding its faded drone sequences to slowly reintroduce the ancient piano turnings and the lost, idiosyncratic, fragmented electronica into its arms. It’s just blearily gorgeous and clings to this precious moment with all it has, savouring it while it has the chance, even if it is now beginning to fade beyond recognition and all hope of retention, prolonging the inevitable for as long as possible but bowing out gracefully when its time is done.

The other movements are rather underwhelming, sadly. Follow up fifteen-minuter “Im Morganglanze”  instantly crushes the delicate mood the Glow suite carefully built up across its span by replacing it with bleak and chilly atmospheres in its initial moments, the drones dark and unsympathetic. It slowly rotates into view, the textures slowly returning but not able to inject much life into proceedings as these aliens rushes and drippings and clickings create a discordant and harsh listening environment. The closing title track is slightly better; at 28 minutes it’s afforded the longest span by far and does a decent job of utilising its time as it returns to the same aesthetics of the Glow suite, but there’s an incipient and unavoidable chaos and incoherence present that wasn’t previously, subsequently causing its delicate glitches and fragile piano tinklings to feel a bit aimless and inconsequential. It’s still got a sad beauty to it but it really feels rather disconnected and far less engaging than before, which is a shame.

I think this album shows a lot of promise but ultimately I’m a little disappointed in its presentation; its early fragility and innocent warmth are all but completely abandoned in “Im Morgenglanze” for no discernible reason and at significant detriment to the flow of the album in my opinion, and when those fragile meanderings return they’re lost in a wash of decohesion. The Glow tracks really are undeniably beautiful though, I just wish they’d been taken a little further; nice concept just a bit underwhelming overall, I wish it didn’t become so bleak and uninteresting to listen to.