Automatic Writing

Here’s what some people have had to say about Sleepwalking Into The Underworld:

The Milk Factory:

Scottish musician and sound artist Dave Fyans, who has been officiating as Erstlaub for over five years, returns to Highpoint Lowlife, this time with a full audio-visual project which combines a forty minute film and its accompanying soundtrack, available as a very limited DVD release. Built as one long evolutive piece, where various segments seamlessly slip into one another, their boundaries blurred beyond recognition, and ultimately resulting in one fluid narrative. Similarly, the video takes various black and white footage of bodies of water (rivers, ponds, puddles) and wooded areas, each one roughly corresponding to a defined sound set.

Fyans has worked with similarly monolithic forms in the past, carving deep introspective soundscapes from stark and arid sources, shaping them into beautiful textural pieces. Very much like was the case on Broadcasting On Ghost Frequencies (Moving Furniture, 2009) orOn Becoming An Island (Highpoint Lowlife, 2007), space is intrinsically part of the overall sound contingency of the piece, but there is here an impressive density which, while already present on Broadcasting, reaches here an entirely different level. The piece opens with a simple and smooth drone, lightly polished, with a hint of white noise at the back, but this is rapidly disturbed by a bubbling form which appears to relate to running water in the video, but which could as well be the crackle of an empty radio signal or a swathe of grinding noises smoothened by layers of fog. In the next few minutes, this is submitted to an intense process of leveling and pressurization, bringing the overall piece back toward more hospitable grounds.

Whilst applied with various strength, this process very much continues throughout, at times revealing moments of deep emotional intensity as elements of almost orchestral grandeur are layered in the foreground, at others diving into rather dark and threatening territories, where corroded sounds slowly decay and contaminate healthier structures, or centred around deeply fragmented components. Although created as a unit, the music can work independently from the video, its extreme variations and continuous flow contributing to its strong evocative character. Indeed, there is enough triggers throughout to generate self-induced dream sequences, yet the added imagery is as hypnotic and enigmatic as the music itself, bringing another layer of introspection to the work.

One of the last scheduled outputs to come out of the excellent Highpoint Lowlife, which is due to shut down later on in the year, Sleepwalking Into The Underworld is yet another might fine demonstration of strong sonic processing from Erstlaub. The impressive cinematic form which has become Dave Fyans’s mode of expression, shaped into one long evolutive piece, reaches its most intense stage yet. Highly recommended.


Always Everything:

Another new release from Highpoint Lowlife that locks directly into the Always Everything axis, this time from Broken20 co-conspirator Dave Fyans, who records ambient drone asErstlaub:

Sleepwalking Into The Underworld was sent to me billed as a full audio/visual piece, exploring the malleability of time and chaos theory. If that all sounds a little arch and conceptual, the piece itself – and the film that accompanies it – can just as easily be taken apart from the thoughts that drove its creation. Appropriately, given its watery theme, it’s a surprisingly immersive forty minutes, passing through curtains of static and strange ripples generated when different elements play off against one another. Shot in monochrome, the film itself leaves its imprint on the music – when absorbed by itself afterwards, it’s hard not to visualize unmoving columns of evergreens stretching into the distance.

You can watch the whole film here.

In Fyans’ own words:

“The piece is based around the concept of being drawn to places of resonance where the separation between different time periods are thin, specifically areas of historic spiritual importance, the title refers to the theme of ancestor worship and the idea of bodies of water being portals to the underworld. Visually the piece calls back the recurring themes of isolation within the vastness of the universe and stillness as a measure of time.

The piece is an expanded hypersigil created as a response to real world ideas and emotions but the space that exists between this inspiration and the final output is more than just a straight “musical” process. Elements of music theory, physics, maths play a part, as do the deeper concepts of chaos/pop magic, dimensionality within the universe and non-linear time.”

I watched for the first time it at about three in the morning, on the cusp of sleep, and it seems charged, primed with that hour of darkness: those moments immediately before the brain slips into unconsciousness, where time begins to flow freely and the mind begins to free associate. There’s obviously a level at which music like this – especially when based around this sort of concept – is psychedelic, as it plays havoc with perceptions of space and time in much the same way as a hallucinogen. Still, in this case, Fyans avoids typical contrived trappings of psychedelia in favour of something entirely subtler, and in doing so ends up being far more effective in conveying mood and idea. By the time I actually fell asleep I’d struggle to tell you whether I’d watched it for four or forty minutes.

Further transmissions from one of our favourite labels, one that’s sadly soon to be no more. For more Highpoint Lowlife info (and a link to buy the piece as standalone or on DVD), it’s well worth checking out their website, or the AE-pennedpair of features (including an excellent mix from label boss Thorsten) on DiS.


Following a split with TVO earlier this year, Scotland’s Erstlaub delivers a 40 minute blanket of occluded drones for Highpoint Lowlife. ‘Sleeping In The Underworld’ masterfully drifts through darkened zones of bleak, rustic ambience to wide-open symphonic flushes nodding to Gas through blustery, tempered passages of noise and placid but unnerving atmospheres, with changing pressure systems of subbass drone and uniquely textured electronics covering his trail. Apparently there are some pretty heady concepts behind the music itself, something to do with chaos, dimensionality and time, but that almost all grinds to a halt as you get lost in the calming drones and nautical white noise. Wind and rain wash against the harmonic tones as occasional beats and digital malfunctions knock up into the soundscape like pebbles washed up on the shore. ‚ÄòSleepwalking into the Underworld‚Äô is a beautiful, measured and subtle piece of music that should lull you into stasis with the greatest of ease. Recommended.

And possibly my favourite published review ever courtesy of Brett over at Norman Records:

Reviewing press releases? I love this shit! Since we’ve got no means of watching this forty-minute DVD job that’s all I’ve got to go on here but luckily it’s a beauty! It ranges from the conceptual (‘self contained, autonomous systems, usually with an inbuilt ‚Äúfail‚Äù system removing the technical purity and adding a more organic edge’) to the sorta scientific (‘music theory, physics, maths play a part, as do the deeper concepts of chaos/pop magic, dimensionality within the universe and non-linear time’.. Actually that’s still conceptual really, isn’t it?) to the purely practical (‘the sound is pure synthesis with no samples or field recordings used and was recorded in one take with no post editing or overdubs using a Nord Modular G2, Behringer BCR2000 Controller along with boss re201 and dd20 delay units. The video was shot on a Nikon D90 and edited in Final Cut’). So that’s all bases covered. Does anyone know what ‘hypersigil’ means?

The piece has also featured in both Que Belle Epoque and Lend Me Your  Ears end of year honours lists

Thanks so much to everyone that’s taken the time out to support my endeavours, put up with my not infequent meltdowns, book me to play, write things and buy my work, there are still some hardcopies of the limited DVD available from Highpoint Lowlife.

All the best for 2011, there’s another release right around the corner on Broken20, more news to follow imminently.


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