Andrew Sherwell – Approaching

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Ever since first hearing Éric Cordier’s Breizhiselad in 2010, in which degraded Breton choir samples enter an electro-acoustic process and emerge sounding both impossibly gnarled and (mostly) still beautifully choral, I’ve delighted in choral samples. Choral texture (euphemistically a choral passage relieved of its sung text) remains uncommon in these instrumental ambient circles, perhaps in lacking both the versatility and the unprovocative secularity of piano, guitar or synths. Londoner Andrew Sherwell at least is one of those inhabiting the choiry camp of this community; he’s done so long enough to see releases on Whitelabrecs, Shimmering Moods and now James Armstrong’s Rusted Tone Recordings. All seem to ruminate deeply if obtusely over Sherwell’s youth, especially his relationship with his grandfather.

For those either seeking to harness or willing to risk spiritual connotations, choirs possess a rich, primal expressive power with a forgiving ability to withstand extensive manipulation. With Sherwell applying the usual tricks (re-pitch, time-stretch, reverb, etc.) at least at the outset, I found nothing on this tape particularly unfamiliar; over the years, I’ve often reworked choir samples similarly for my own material. This coincidence awakened a naive sense of kinship with Sherwell that made his tracks, some of which especially haunting and harmonically beautiful, all the more enjoyable.

The highlight is ‘Approaching 03’, in which subtle materials (among which the hissing exchange of reverberating sibilance and the ticking of a clock) waft around an eerie and exceptionally satisfying pair of chords. Over and over again I’ve rinsed those misty, wilting voices. He nailed it. Alone it justifies purchasing the tape. Six more tunes haunt the album, though, some of whose choirs inhabiting the stifling murk of subterranean octaves. Although they lose a lot of their vocal poignancy for me, they’re credible sources of gloomy and sinister atmospheres. All in all, a swell tape.