If you are not familiar with the work of Finn McNicholas, he is an incredibly prolific artist; a cellist, the composer of numerous short film scores and the man behind the project, Ultre. What we have here is a new album, Concrescence, to be released on Opal Tapes.
The instrumental foundation of this album is a number of unlayered and layered cello pieces along with untreated and effect-driven keyboard. Track 1, “Coma Forever (Part II)” is the first appearance of this. It doesn’t take long to realize that the dynamics of high vs. low strings and sounds clearly show that Finn McNicholas is a master of mixing and layering.
Finn manages to create a somber, contemplative atmosphere that resembles nine chapters in a movie soundtrack. That stands to reason being a film composer. Fortunately, Opal Tapes is keeping the cassette alive so the recording isn’t overly glossy or over-produced. So, the character and atmosphere is held intact.
But the fact that this recording was made by a single composer makes it that much more interesting and amazing.
At times, the music centers around lush keyboard-driven soundscapes and others with the cello as the dominant instrument supplemented by slight percussive noises and occasional drone backdrop. But perhaps the best moments are those when the cello is layered into the mix. Take track 3 of side B, ” Ocean is Gone,” for example.
Track 4 of side B “Coma Forever (Part III)” starts off with a slower, somber cello coupled with what sounds like Paganini’s violin caprice on hyper-speed. Enter the low drone and keyboard choral sound and the room opens up to a cloud-filled sky over the rolling ocean, followed by the storm which enters on the final track, “C-Sound.”
“C-Sound” closes out the album and amazingly sounds like a seaside soundscape field recording with a subsequent slowly-rising drone.
At times, intimate and others like a soundtrack for the opening of the sky. What a unique and fascinating, genre-defying recording from such a prolific composer and from a company keeping the art of the cassette alive.
Concrescence will be released on May 5 by Opal Tapes in a limited quantity so keep an eye out.