012 offthesky 'Hiding Nature'
Cat.No: home n012
Release date: February 5th, 2010
Edition number: 1000 (digipack)
Well, what’s to say about Jason Corder? He’s been pretty much my favourite artist since I first heard his Resting Bell release, ‘Rare Decay’. Of course I love lots of music but rarely has an artist put out so much amazing work, under various monikers, as Jason. I love his work so much, I am releasing him across all my labels – Home Normal, Tokyo Droning and Nomadic Kids Republic. That’s how varied his work is, and gosh darn it, why not?
Jason has been with the Home Normal ‘project’ (as I initially termed it) since its inception. The early pieces from Hiding Nature were with me at the end of 2008 and were one of the main reasons for starting the label. He spent the past year finalising it and, I have to say (and I know I may be biased here), I think this is his chef-d’oeuvre.
The album is obviously an offthesky record, with its minute attention to detail and its beautiful, often creeping, sometimes sporadic, bursts of melody. Essentially Jason’s plan was to make an album of heavily processed vibraphone pieces, yet it became so much more featuring clever use of warbly guitar tones and textures throughout, and incredible haunting vocal arrangements on ‘Frozen Fountain’, for example. It ranges from the melodic brilliance of ‘Hand Held Lightly’ to the more experimental playfulness of ‘Clockwort’, from the guitar chords mixed with bleeps of melody on ‘Little Subtle Secret’ to the delicately processed vibraphone of ‘Rest But Not Least’.
Its a complete listening experience by one of the most talented producers around today, an astonishing record and the most fun I have heard in melodious experimentation in some time, maybe ever. As Jason himself says, ‘Enjoy this with your nearest breathing thing’. And I have, and I will, again and again and again and…
All music by Jason Corder
Photography by Joseph Borreson
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Jordan Anderson – Foxy Digitalis
“Hiding Nature” is an involving release on Tokyo/London label Home Normal by prolific Denver experimental musician and visual artist Jason Corder’s Offthesky project, named when Corder misheard a line from the film “Trainspotting,” “I’m off the scag,” as “I’m off the sky.” It’s interesting that Corder creates, through this rendering of a phrase, a synesthetic comparison of a person’s deep need for something with the all-encompassing part of their world that is the sky—a contrast and sense of blurring together of ideas that could also potentially be read into much of the music on the album: Corder’s eliciting of a separate, antithetical, but revealing understanding from an expression that is different from what was originally intended may be a telling trait of some of the ways on this recording that many different meanings can be taken from various words, ideas, and sounds. The title of the album itself, for example, can suggest various interpretations such as the “hidden nature” of a person, or of a personified version of nature that is retreating from urban areas. In the same way, song titles like “Hand Held Lightly,” and “Light Like,” can suggest many different values; “Hand Held Lightly” can not only imply the image of two people holding hands, but also the thought of a person shirking responsibility in a relationship. Moreover many of the tones on the album, when contrasted against one another, are like lights of different intensity appearing and reappearing at night.
There is a similar conceptual split between natural and unnatural and the use on the recordings of both processed and unprocessed sounds, whether via acoustic, electric, or electronic instruments, which as arrangements suggest reflection on both natural and man-made environments. The instrumentation is at times reminiscent, in Corder’s using of minimal musical lines to create a mental image for the listener, of 19th century Japanese scroll paintings of isolated mountain scenes made with only a brush and black ink; whereas at other times such a split between “natural” and “artificial” sound gives the music an almost scientific quality, as though the listener is walking through a museum and viewing subjects of examination which are have been placed under glass.
Corresponding to this mixing of abstract music with a feeling of concrete place—in that Corder uses minimal electronic music in an evocative way, calling to mind the mood produced by spending time in nature and a city—the foremost quality of the recordings is an emphasis on texture: sounds can range from the wide, full-sounding, pentatonic scales of autumnal chimes, bells, vibraphone notes, and brief ornamentation of human voice, to percussive effects that have the quality and slight abrasiveness of sandpaper. On “Rest but not Least,” chords that are rearranged by granular synthesis and reordered into a different progression whose phrasing becomes jarring under the manipulation, create an indistinct and overcast sound by the sudden rearrangement of the their notes, creating an effect wherein the listener feels as though they are being led down an obscured path. It is on places on “Hiding Nature” such as this that Corder’s talent for making the audience of the album feel as though they are accompanying his thought processes as they are formed is made evident, and a real sense of engagement between the composer and the onlooker of Corder’s work is achieved. 9/10
Stephan Sherman – Silent Ballet Score: 7.5/10
Hiding Nature is a kind of study of sound, wherein one side, Musicality, faces off against the other, Audiophilia. Granted, these two sides share a great deal and are often indistinguishable from one another. This album, though, serves as a guidebook delivered in album form for truly parsing it out. On the one hand, we have musicality, a carefully plotted order to the chaos based predominantly in culturally established rules but with a good deal of simple mathematical harmony thrown into the equation. The dictionary offers melodiousness as a possible synonym, but really there’s more to musicality than a finely crafted melody. There is counterpoint, rhythm, syncopation, dramatic movement and development, and so on, all laid out temporally in such a way that we have come to comprehend and recognize.
Audiophilia, on the other hand, is a bit less restricted. The audiophile is not constrained by the basic cultural rules that place a listener and a composer, a player and a conductor on the same page. There isn’t as much need to be able to chart a path by which to rope in the endless possibility that sound offers. Rather, the joy is in capturing and manipulating the sound, in experimenting with the nature of sound. There is the placement of the mic when recording in a particular room, or the long trek into the woods to capture a particularly rare noise. There is the bending of circuits and the experimenting with software, and anything from the level of fidelity achieved initially to the surprising results after a long editing session can provide euphoric satisfaction. In short, it isn’t about music; it’s about experiencing sound.
Audiophiles, then, don’t always end up making the best music, but they invariably capture some incredible sound. The joy of listening to work such as this doesn’t derive from musicality as such, but rather from the skilled craft of a man who understands how sound functions on a fundamental level. But M. Jason Corder, who records under the moniker of offthesky, is more than a gearhead with some nice equipment and a good ear. He is straddling the divide between audiophile and musician, and in the process letting us in on some very exquisite work.
Perhaps the single best experience a music listener can have is when she is able to detect in music the enjoyment its creator had in making it, and there’s no shortage of it here. Above all, this album takes on the essential characteristics of what can best be described as playful reverence; it is hushed, respectful, meditative, and yet still quirky and strange. Nevertheless, there are moments when the true difference between musicality and audiophilia comes to light, namely when the sounds suddenly and unexpectedly coalesce into song, complete with melody, rhythm, dramatic movement, and, above all, a true sense of musical competence.
Indeed, the track in question is “Hand Held Lightly,” the fifth of nine tracks. In the exact middle of the album, we suddenly depart the work of audiophilia and veer so far into musicality that for one extended moment we are privy to a deep understanding of what music is. The effect is astounding, and indeed this moment is so compelling that it goes a certain distance toward revealing the whimsicality of the remainder of the album, and not to its benefit. Even the return of some musical convention in the final track, “Little Subtle Secret,” cannot smooth over the disturbance. While the more abstract moments are enjoyable and have their place, they simply cannot carry with them the cultural weight of music, and while in reality they are likely every bit as carefully crafted and finely tuned as any fully realized musical work, they are not recognized with the same visceral force, and cannot be.
So what’s left? Though there are some moments of disjointed discomfort (“Clockwort”) that seem out of place, the majority of the album is a pleasant success, providing plenty of textured abstract soundscapes to revel in while at the same time showcasing Corder’s talent. The only real downside here is simply that on a predominantly audiophilial album Corder revealed just how compelling music really is, thus creating in his listener a demand for something he didn’t provide, a fact that is in itself a triumph.
Ian Hawgood thinks so much of Jason Corder’s work that he’s elected to issue his material on all three of his labels—Home Normal, Tokyo Droning, and Nomadic Kids Republic. It’s high praise but not unwarranted, as Hiding Nature, Corder’s Home Normal set, makes clear. It’s also not hard to understand Hawgood’s enthusiam for Corder’s Offthesky concept, as much of the recording suggests they’re kindred sensibilities, with both interested in experimental marriages of found sounds, field recordings, and heavily processed instrument sounds.
Apparently Corder’s initial plan for Hiding Nature (the ostensible follow-up to the early 2009 release Creek Caught Fire issued by The Land Of) was to create material using vibraphone as the primary sound source, but the palette expanded as the project evolved such that guitars and vocals emerged as part of the mix too. Describing the album’s nine settings as tranquil isn’t entirely off the mark—much of the material unfolds in a meditative, drifting style—but labeling it as such underscores the wealth of detail and activity that appears when dazzling clouds of bell tones, speckled textures, and guitar-generated fuzz and pops billow through the tracks (“Light Like” and “Fear of Flora” prime examples). “Birds Eye View” captures a beehive of buzzes, clicks, flutters, clanks, and whirrs, much of it seemingly guitar-generated; “Kind of Brittle” presents a forest-like evocation of vibraphone tones (more suggestive of tinkling gamelan bells); and a gamelan-like flow of treated vibraphone tones turns “Rest But Not Least” into a blinding hall of mirrors. In fact, each song is so heavily built from fragmented slivers and warbles of sound that the appearance of a fully-stated electric guitar theme in “Hand Held Lightly” proves ear-catching all by itself. Even more surprising, a faint, muffled beat haunts the background of “Little Subtle Secret” in such a way that some tangential connection to techno is hinted at, even if the track’s focal points remain swirls of guitar shards and fuzz. Unexpected moments of this kind help make Hiding Nature the captivating listening experience that it is.
Boomkat – Album of the Week
Offthesky is the alias of American sound sculptor and visual artist, Jason Corder. You may have previously encountered Corder’s work on labels like Archipel, Zymogen, 12k’s digital wing, term., and even The Remote Viewer’s Mobeer, with his work as part of the duo Color Cassette. Hiding Nature is surely Boder’s highest profile release to date, and it’s a significant entry onto Home Normal’s impressive catalogue. Label boss Ian Hawgood describes Corder as “pretty much my favourite artist”, and on the strength of this album there’s certainly a lot to recommend his work. Corder taps into the sort of idiom already established by the likes of Taylor Deupree and the likes, processing fragments of everyday sound, chiming vibraphones and tiny guitar tones. The blend of timbres is always delicate, yet you seldom hear anything that’s stretched out into misted over drone – there’s always plenty of texture readily audible over the course of this record, and not being overly precious or academic about his craft, Corder isn’t shy when it comes to shaping melodies, or even applying vocals to his music when he deems it appropriate. ‘Frozen Fountain’ embraces wordless falsetto singing (a little like the sort of thing Arve Henriksen comes out with) while various noises all combine in a harmonious tangle. At every new moment there seems to be something beautiful to turn your ear towards: you’ll hear ‘Clockwort’s superb concrète merging of percussive processing and glitchy rhythms; the more conventional electronic tonal warmth of ‘Hand Held Lightly’ and ‘Fear Of Flora’s fractured, hiss-soaked jumble. Another very fine release from the Home Normal stable.
Norman Records – Recommended
Offthesky next. After a conceptual dronework for the Tokyo Droning offshoot, Home Normal unleash another stuttering, meandering, “twinkle chirrup & glitch fest” called ‘Hiding Nature’. It sounds at one point like pretty chimes and elements of fine glass percussion are being played with by an amorphous blob monster from the planet Nexius Sector IV before he gets bored and starts eating & regurgitating them to create subtle weird gloopy android noises. There’s also some really lovely astral sounding atmospherics on this CD that lull you into a slightly soporific stupor. I’ve just come round and there’s about half a pint of spittle smeared all over the laptop screen. This review read like the ravings of a madman & I had the @ & G keys stuck to my wet cheek. There’s many more avenues to explore throughout this CD but time is limited, Ian Hawgood writes a much better synopsis than me & there’s sound clips too so why don’t you just leave me alone you bullies?
Thierry Massard – noComment
Je ne m’étais pas plus longuement attardé sur le travail de Jason Corder depuis le magnifique “Dwelling spells” pour zymogen, fin 2008, et même si le temps n’a pas encore fait son ouvrage, et sa part d’oubli, subsiste également encore, l’antérieur et très magique “rare decay” pour resting bell. Dire que Offthesky cultive une persistance, est à l’évidence, et au regard de ce “hiding nature” un aveu bienveillant pour le travail merveilleusement ciselé du musicien de Denver. Très heureuse rencontre (et fondatrice, à en croire les notes de Ian Hawgood) avec les orfèvres alchimistes de home normal, cette première collaboration est immédiatement placée sous le signe d’une intime séduction, de ces confidences chuchotées alors que l’on partage secrètement une expérience hors des choses et bien entendu hors tempo.
“Hiding Nature” éveille singulièrement les sens, armé de particules fabuleusement hétérogènes, et l’envoutement instinctif en un cheminement aux belles allures involontaires en sont plus que la belle récompense.
P*Dis / Inpartmaint
ベルギーの stilllや日本の symbolic interaction、そして home normal主宰の ian hawgood の新レーベルtokyo droningなど、様々なレーベルからリリースする米デンヴァー在住の jason corder によるソロ・プロジェクト、offthesky。home normalからニュー・アルバムをリリース。彼は他にも zen savauge、color by cassette、social systemなど様々な名義でリリースし、set in sand の matt yaringtonとのユニット color casetteとしても活動中です。きめ細かな電子音のテクスチャーとフィールドレコーディングによって組み立てられた、シンプルで清廉としたアンビエン ト作品です。今後、ian hawgoodとのコラボレーション作品もリリース予定とのこと。