Abul Mogard – In Immobile Air (Ecstatic, 2021)


There’s a few common ways to visualise the passage of time, the most popular perhaps being one of a string or thread, a 1-dimensional continuum constantly unravelling and despooling itself with no perceivable end. This may be the neatest way when talking about time in a general sense, but for beings dictated by the rotation of the Earth and the librations of celestial spheres, I prefer the image of waves or tides instead.

We break our lives, our time, down into discrete quanta: days and nights, weeks, months and years, each tick-over a sloshing wave breaking on the shores of consciousness. And there is comfort in this feeling, of the sense that time is actually passing, punctuated as it is by the regularity of light and dark, the waxing and waning of daylight hours, the predictability of the next wave arriving following the sunset.

There have been many times in this last year, however, that our collective sense of time’s passing seems to have failed us. The days go by with such monotony that, though we are aware that one has passed and another begins, one cannot be discerned from the other. “Blursday” was coined in our house, gently (sadly) joking on the feeling that each day smears into the rest, unable to be told apart.

It is the feeling of being in limbo, of knowing that time is advancing and yet remaining static, that has defined coronavirus, and Mogard’s In Immobile Air. There is a trail of idiosyncratic sound run through the record, most particularly in the opening title track and in penultimate “Sand”, whereby familiar piano strokes reappear laden with a heavy sense of melancholia, enfolded by the soft embrace of fuzzy drones. Though there is difference, there is change, subtle as it might seem. The opener finds itself fraying out into bleak reverberation, mushing into bleached tones, whilst “Sand” is far less obfuscated and brighter, albeit dry and stolid.

The piano or synth is seldom heard clearly elsewhere, though the suggestion of recognisable musical form does of course creep in elsewhere. Elongate and elegant closer “On A Shattered Shell Beach” pulsates in soft, gentle synth insistences, echoing the oceanic oscillations of its predecessors. Its slowly throbbing realm is one of constant motion but no clear evolution, no perceivable change occurring in the cycles between waves. Just the distant fuzz of a billion grains of sand rolling in the wind, the particular swash of particulate churned and dragged in the surf, signifiers and suggesters of motion.

Or take the bleaker motions of interior “Black Dust”, whose tempered drone waves creep in crescendo, crashing in carefully metered energy with deep bassy cores and diffuse, noisy extremities. It sounds like a more cerebral offcut of Dan Avery and Alessandro Cortini’s Illusion of Time than it does an Abul Mogard release, but its laboured tidal realm fits perfectly within the almost tortuously static confines of the work.

I’ve said of a few records in the past 12 months that I’ve felt they captured the feeling of lockdown life, but for most of those it’s the darkness, the anxiety of the headspace surrounding the pandemic that they bottled; in this LP it is the distinct flatness of its profile, the transition from wavey-time to string-time that is shown. It’s something I’m sure many of us are familiar with by now and, like me, are probably wishing its imminent end.