010 Konntinent 'Opal Island'

Cat.No: home n010
Release date: January 18th, 2010
Edition number: 1000 (digipack)

Buy Now @ Home Normal (Japan)

Release description:
Among many obvious definitions of the ‘heart’ is this: ‘the vital center and source of one’s being, emotions, and sensibilities’.

It’s the first word I think of when I hear the work of Antony Harrison (the man behind the Konntinent moniker). And when you listen to his work, its really obvious why.

The Konntinent sound is very much based on micro-elements I guess, at least this time around. Unlike his earlier drone-based work, ‘Opal Island’ has much more of Antony’s guitar playing to the fore, as it does the gorgeous vocals of Lisa Madisson on ‘Dry eyed’, as well as Antony’s own beautifully subtle singing. It has odd rhythms coming in and out, piano, weird glitchy sounds and tones I can’t quite place. Its all in the craftsmanship you see. Its very rare to come across an artist who actually makes ‘songs’ which can also be defined as ‘pieces’ – and as such his work is so hard to place.

All I am left to do is to go back to the image of the heart. In Japan, there is a faux-English usage of the word, made adjective…the Japanese say ‘heartful’. Its on billboards, products and people use it all the time. Its basically used to describe something which is full of emotion and induces said emotion in others. Whilst the word admittedly does my head in when I am in Japan, in a nice and concise way it covers my feelings for the music Antony Harrison creates. Opal Island is a very ‘heartful’ album, as Antony is himself a very ‘heartful’ artist and songsmith. And whilst linguists will not initially thank me, after hearing this record, you just might get what I mean.

Ian Hawgood

Mastered by Taylor Deupree
Photography by Ian Hawgood

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Antony Harrison’s Konntinent project seems to exceed my expectations with every new release – no easy feat considering how fine his work always is. Active on the promotion side of things in London and part of a network of artists that is very dear to my heart, he’s put together another champion album here for Ian Hawgood and Ben Jones’ Home Normal (complete with the new style packaging as well, no less!) His roots lie in the organic, without doubt, but his grasp of electronics and processing really comes to the fore here with a beautiful range of sounds and styles, from minimal drone, through washy shoegaze textures and even some deeply excellent techno-style 4/4 moments. What brings them all together though is the sheer depth and attention to detail that goes into each and every moment. Little edits and drops mix with flowing chords and textures and the addition of some clickier almost, dare I say it, Raster Noton-esque moments really come together to capture the listener. With music of this calibre coming out on a regular basis on Home Normal, it’s not surprising to find someone as talented as Konntinent featuring as well. A gorgeous and unique work that comes highly recommended.

Konntinet is the moniker adopted by Anthony Harrison, previously seen on labels like Symbolic Interaction and Dynamophone Records. This Home Normal release is surely his highest profile work to date however, notably aided by a Taylor Deupree mastering job. In fact, much of the material on Opal Island wouldn’t sound too out of place on 12k, although the release strays beyond the parameters of archetypal microsound-based material when Harrison’s guitar gets involved. In these moments the album shifts over into a more post-rock styled mode that’s perhaps comparable to some of Mark Nelson’s Pan American material (listen to the delicate, downbeat tones of ‘Frost Fair’, for instance). Glitchy micro-rhythms add plenty of texture and rhythmic presence to Harrison’s processed ambiences – something that works especially well during ‘Dry Eyed’, featuring singer Lisa Madisson. Guitars and vocals are sliced into with a digital scalpel, leaving what sounds a little like a chewed-up and dissolved version of a Beth Orton song. Full-blooded beats make an appearance on the record too, with ’44 55 33′ offering a kick drum backbone while various treated field recordings and blurry guitars slide around in a bath of reverb. For the most part though, any rhythmic elements are confined to irregular loop structures, or occasionally, surges in amp hiss that have been sculpted into percussion, and the record tends to function on a fairly abstract level – albeit one that retains a sense of song-craft and comes with a heavy dose of atmospheric wistfulness.

phantom channelというCDR/ネットレーベルを運営し、日本のsymbolic interactionレーベルからもリリースしているUKロンドン在住のアーティストKonntinentことAntony Harrisonが、Dynamophone Recordsのparcelシリーズに続き、home normalからニュー・アルバムをリリース。ギターやシンセの浮遊するレイヤーに繊細な電子音やノイズが燦然と点在するとても美しいアンビエント・ド ローン作品に仕上がっています。UKの女性アーティスト、Lisa Madissonがヴォーカルで1曲参加しています。マスタリングはTaylor Deupree、アートワークはレーベルオーナーのIan Hawgoodが担当。

Norman Records (Recommendation)
I can never spell Konntinent right. I always do too many N’s or not enough N’s or occasionally throw an extra T at things to see if that works. It doesn’t though. Well here’s their brand new 2nd album proper (after their debut Norman Records album of the week on Symbolic Interaction) ‘Opal Island’ on the excellent Home Normal label. It’s mastered by 12K lord Taylor Deupree and it features cover art photography by Ian Hawgood (who runs the label if you didn’t know). So there’s your facts…What’s the music like? It’s excellent. That’ what it is. There’s lots of glitchy weird electronics in the background ala Raster Noton or something. The electronics are very clean and precise in fact…. smothering that there’s some meandering guitar somewhere in between Godspeed and July Skies. It’s very sparse emotive music which will appeal to fans of Make Mine Music and the like. It’s part neo classical, part experimental electronics, part pastoral, part drone, part ambient, part post rock…. loads of different elements carefully crafted together to make a surprisingly coherent album given the amount of influences and styles on board. Really excellent stuff and heartily recommended by me!!

Brian Howe – Pitchfork
Opal Island, the new album by London’s Konntinent, would fit nicely on a Venn diagram with fellow drone artists Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Black to Comm. The primary overlap point would be a knack for microscopic detail. Using an array of oscillators, arpeggiators, and crazy sounds you can’t easily place they gather errant scraps of instrumentation and noise into uncanny wholes. But when we say “drone,” don’t think dark and dense– this is lively, diverse music.
Konntinent is a little more forbidding than his peers, but his sound world is just as wonderfully kaleidoscopic. On Opal Island, brooding guitars add delicate melodies to micro-electronic mirages. Rhythms are jagged, but feel purposeful and fluid. There is plenty of peculiar, splintering noise, but almost no murk: The record simply wouldn’t work without the clear production, which captures the unique curve and heft of each sound. Konntinent’s materials aren’t just drones, hums, and disarticulated tunes; but also glitches, unruly microphones, the muffled roar of blank tape. Clicks and pops embellish the melodies, and scraps of extreme frequency swallow up portions of signal. He ranges broadly over the stereo spectrum, creating sub-rhythms with hard pans to immerse the listener in a spacious, unevenly shifting sound.

While each track is made of similar, elusive materials, the atmosphere often changes, from the opiated death disco of “44 55 33″ to the slack guitars of “Frost Fair”. The tracks shapeshift so gradually you barely notice it, though momentous changes occur in almost every one. Voices occasionally pop in: Konntinent’s own grayscale murmur, and a winsome turn by Lisa Madisson on the calming “Dry Eyed”. To call these effects dreamlike is clichéd but correct– you’re in one place and then, suddenly, another. People appear, say incomprehensible things, then vanish. On the margin of deceptive banality, extraordinary events flicker. If you like hearing the esoteric pleausres of sound art rendered tangible, intuitive, and explicity emotional, Konntinent is as rewarding as the best of his peers. (Score 7.8)

I’ve enjoyed the previous efforts from Anthony Harrison’s Konntinent project very much indeed, but Opal Island feels like a step up in class. While it has always been a part of the Konntinent sound, the electronic element is now much more refined and significant. I caught him live last year supporting Machinefabriek and it seems that that artist, amongst certain others, has been a big influence on the Konntinent sound. For on Opal Island, glitch mingles amongst guitar experimentation, microscopic rhythms fitting in perfectly amongst the more familiar shoegaze textures.

A few tracks stick to those templates successfully established by previous albums such as Degrees, Integers, such as the blurry vocal heartbreak of “Dry Eyed”, or the lush, layered “Sabotka the Dreamer” but elsewhere a tectonic shift is taking place. That is signposted by the fact that the album was mastered by Taylor Deupree, who as well as bringing his usual degree of attention to sonic detail (this sounds glorious from deep bass right up to the (very) high end), seems also to have been an inspiration on this change in direction. The opening title track sounds as pristine as anything on Deupree’s 12k label, in fact the way that a shimmering haze of melody slowly rises from an unpromising-sounding textural soup recalls something from Deupree’s own November. But the following “Surrender Number” is somewhat harsher, and wouldn’t be out of place on Raster-Noton, surgically inserted clicks fizzing through layers of distortion, reminiscent of Kangding Ray perhaps; Alva Noto-like patterns reappear on the later “Jansson’s Temptation”.

It is in the way that Harrison uses the instrumental sounds as building blocks for more ambitious compositions, sealing them with all manner of deep and unidentifiable recorded sounds, that I am reminded of the work of Rutger Zuyderfelt. “Uncertain Steps To An Unknown End” is my favourite, with its looped piano being gradually eaten away by heavily-decayed field recordings and drones, pulling itself up gradually to menacing height before falling away, closing this extremely impressive album on a curiously unresolved and somewhat uncomfortable note.

Opal Island, the second Konntinent full-length from Antony Harrison (Degrees, Integers on Symbolic Interaction in 2009 the first), registers as a classic late-night listen, the kind of recording that bridges the gaps between multiple states of consciousness. It’s like a slow-burning fever dream which seeps into one’s thoughts as light fades, as one’s defenses go down, and when a sense of peaceful surrender settles in. At first the pieces sound like sketches that might have accumulated over time and that Harrison assembled into full-length form. But after repeated listens, an overall structure comes into focus, and the album begins to exert a soothing pull on the listener. It’s also a ‘headphones’ album, as Harrison often plays with the spatial distribution of elements, whether that be the subtle positioning of elements within the horizontal field or the conspicuous alternation between left and right channels.

The title track inaugurates the album mysteriously with what sounds like some special battalion arriving on the island and encroaching upon transmission offices at a central industrial station, and one even hears the seeming flutter of helicopter blades alongside the brooding textures and tones. Lisa Madisson helps ease the listener into a relaxed state when her softly uttered vocals appear alongside plaintive guitar motifs during “Dry Eyed.” Tempos gradually slow, until a track such as “Frost Fair” almost eschews beat structures altogether except for the ringing of a cymbal and tap of a rimshot. While in some cases the arrangements grow more skeletal, in this case Harrison weaves a dense selection of acoustic and electronic sounds into a thick mass, as guitar chords merge with bowed strings and the tinkle of bell percussion. The drift into unconsciousness continues when “Sabotka The Dreamer” immerses the listener into a deep synthetic pool of symphonic ambiance and guitar shadings, and the inward trajectory continues on thereafter during the tremolo-laden incantation “Numeral” where Harrison’s own tremulous vocalizing appears. “Lossless” lulls the listener with cross-currents of electric guitar twang, and “Uncertain Steps To An Unknown End” closes the album in becalmed and peaceful manner.

One of things that distinguishes Harrison’s approach is that while he clearly uses electric guitar and electronics as lead voices, he doesn’t blend the two into an indistinguishable whole. Instead, he often uses micro-textures and rhythms (laptop-generated presumably) as a base against which he layers distortion-free electric guitar lines. Contrast results, then, between the clean timbres of the lead instrument and the hazier build-up in the background. There are moments when the material calls to mind the work of other artists—certainly the clicks, sonar bleeps, and monotone bass rhythms that anchor “Surrender Number” will remind many of Carsten Nicolai’s alva noto style, for example—but Opal Island is anything but a too-derivative exercise. In its own understated way, the material draws the listener in, and its haunting pieces prove to be more memorable than expected.