Thursday, October 4, 2012

Album Review: David Newlyn - The Misspelled Numbers

Album Rating: B+
A new David Newlyn release means another chance to plant your elbows on a desk, firmly attach your hands to the side of your face (in a manner far closer to ‘dreamy’ than ‘in pain’), stare emptily at a wall and to really have a proper go at studying the various noises reaching your ears. Deterioration, his LP released just 3 weeks prior to this review, offered a remarkably breezy view of Belgium as he recorded the environmental assault on his exposed recording equipment; a sentiment not too far removed from the ever-cited Disintegration Loops. With an added touch of love (and possibly more importantly expertise) from Wil Bolton, Deterioration offered small glades of resonating beauty in an open forest of mist.

The Misspelled Numbers is nothing like this. It’s a much more discreet and clinical effort with the view of ‘observing pastoral hums, misspelled numbers, voices in the rafters and other educational oddities.’ In many ways it’s a meta-analysis on the process people undertake to listen to his music, although it might possibly be unintentional. It’s full of clicks, crackles and thumps on top of the guitar and piano drones that form the only solid link to his previous LP, and is much more focused this time on creating an ordered scattering of notes as opposed to a slow, drifting glide.

The connection between what you hear and what you read on the bandcamp page does seem stretched at first, but then Newlyn has never been one to make his motifs so obvious. For much of the EP, this link constructs itself by means of the small sounds: like a faint click of a pencil in an empty room. It’s an environment that’s very keen to confine these sharper, more solid sounds to a small space within this vast expanse of drones, forming a very studious atmosphere indeed.

‘Seance 17’ is slightly more obvious, with an omnipresent high-pitched whine that, along with some gentle sweeps of drone, works to disguise a soft male voice; much like a student’s urge to sleep making it difficult to concentrate in a lecture. The final line - and really the only audible segment of the track - of ‘they do nothing to change the heart’ extrapolates this by making you feel that you’ve missed something important. Instilling a kind of academic guilt: quite a disconcerting thing to feel from music.

As an album as at home with screeches and clicks as it is with drones, The Misspelled Numbers does remarkably well to be so peaceful. It’s like a slow, weekly routine, but one carried out with care, diligence and passion. Familiar to some, then, and easy to get lost in, this EP solidifies Newlyn’s place amongst the top ambient producers of the year.


1. Forward
2. Seance 17
3. The Last Time
4. In The Sunshine
5. Over The Water

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