In the ancient legend of the Yellow Bell it is said that in the third millennium B.C., Ling-Lun was sent by the emperor to the western mountains where he would ultimately obtain the fundamental pitches of music. He achieved this by cutting bamboo pipes, one of which would become known as the Yellow Bell. This is the pipe that essentially formed the very foundations of Chinese music, the tone from which all other pitches were derived, a symbol of universal harmony.
Jasmine Guffond’s drifting drones are her own Yellow Bell, the basis on which she builds her softly layered works of ambience. Her music moves freely and seamlessly without ever distancing itself from its foundations. Yellow Bell
is haunting yet warm, her compositions full of a life yet subdued, augmented by carefully integrated field recordings and the occasional use of Grouper-esque vocals. The title track goes through multiple movements without ever sounding forced, concluding with a slow almost static drone during which time almost seems to stand still. Elephant
is equally captivating, with its dense, unsettling atmosphere building to a climax that sees the first appearance of her evocative but suitably unimposing voice.
The album’s penultimate track, Lisa’s Opening
, is exemplary of everything Guffond excels at on Yellow Bell
. The eerie opening slowly turns into gentle melodies which are then met by the sound of voices, those of people engaged in light conversation, before concluding with the intimate voice of Guffond herself who in this moment recalls and even exceeds the most hauntingly beautiful vocal passages of Grouper’s Ruins
. The album’s few brief vocal passages however are where the Liz Harris similarities end, as the ambient soundscapes Guffond has created here are very much her own and of her own aesthetic. With Yellow Bell
Guffond has conceived a work of great maturity that is both cohesive and unpredictable, a rare combination within the current ambient music scene and if the aforementioned genre has anything better to offer in 2015 we’ll be looking at something very special indeed.