Review Summary: Liz Harris and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma craft an album of exceptional beauty with what is one of the most interesting collaborations of the year.
In music, the correlation between audio and visual representation is something that is rarely explored to its full potential. While it could be argued that any album displaying careful consideration towards its artwork in relation to its musical content is in fact exploring this connection to some extent, very few artists go beyond this. Raum’s Event of Your Leaving
however, is one notable exception.
Event of Your Leaving
is the first album by Raum, a collaboration featuring Liz Harris (Grouper) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, two names that are synonymous with the current ambient music scene. Harris and Cantu-Ledesma first collaborated back in 2012 when they performed together at the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, playing an 8-hour composition by Harris called Circular Veil, a piece that was designed to create a musical backdrop for those in attendance to sleep to. To do this in a live setting was a suitably daring concept for two of the most creative minds in modern music and this forward thinking approach extends to the duo’s first studio project where there are some equally intriguing concepts and ideas.
The music of Event of Your Leaving
is, amongst other things, an audio interpretation of the artwork of Vija Celmins, which brings us to the connection between audio and visual representation. Celmins is best known for her photo-realistic drawings, the subjects of which include natural elements such as the sea and star fields in a night sky, as well as other more intimate details such as the structure of a spider’s web. With the five pieces that make up Event of Your Leaving
, Harris and Cantu-Ledesma have excelled in recreating the atmosphere and abstract beauty of Celmin’s artwork through music. The album’s gentle, flowing and often minimal instrumentation combined with Harris’ ethereal vocals reflect the encompassing nature of Celmins’ drawings as well as their notable lack of a (visual) reference point.
Album opener and longest song on the album, In Stellar Orbit appears to be inspired by Celmins’ star field drawings. With its layered instrumentation and carefully crafted sound waves this appropriately vast piece floats along taking the listener on journey through the star filled spaces represented in the aforementioned images. Like the album as a whole, In Stellar Orbit manages to enchant and draw the listener in with its ethereal beauty, something that both Harris and Cantu-Ledesma have excelled in with their solo works. Penultimate track, In Held Company is particularly effective in submerging the listener with its ambience; with very little compositional variation it allows the gentle waves of sound to wash over the listener, mimicking the calming effect that the soft wave patterns depicted in Celmins’ ocean images have on the viewer.
As well as being an interpretation of Vija Celmins artwork, Event of Your Leaving
also possesses a deeply emotional and contemplative quality, acting as a soundtrack to clouded memories and dreams. This allows the listener to connect with the album on a much more personal level, particularly during the album’s title track which is perhaps the most emotionally evocative piece on the album. The slow, repetitious piano notes which dominate the song are sombre yet beautiful in their simplicity and combined with Harris’ haunting wordless vocals create a feeling of melancholy and longing that is reflected in the song’s title.
Such is the album’s consistency it’s hard to pinpoint any obvious standouts, or indeed any weaknesses. Every song has its place and the album flows seamlessly from one track to the next, with even the occasional moments of slightly prolonged silence in between them seeming to serve a purpose (see that which follows the fade out of In Held Company leading into Blood Loss). There is little variation in sound or style over the album’s 38 minute duration but this is hardly a negative given that one of the album’s biggest assets is its fluidity. The consistent overall atmosphere of the album combined with ever so slight changes in mood creates a flowing journey through the mind of the listener, one that is made even more powerful when coupled with Celmins’ artwork that provided the inspiration for these beautifully crafted soundscapes.
With their first collaborative album, Harris and Cantu-Ledesma have managed to create an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best albums in their respective discographies. Event of Your Leaving
is every bit as enchanting as Grouper’s A I A
and every bit as evocative as Ledesma’s Love is a Stream
, and combines some of the best qualities of each of the two artists involved. Amongst many other things, Event of Your Leaving
demonstrates how visual art can be translated into music by blurring the lines between the two mediums in a way that is rarely seen or heard in music, this alone makes this album an essential listen for anyone interested ambient and drone music or even music and art in general.