If you’ve been reading my articles consistently for a while, maybe you’ll notice I tend to say at least one thing a number of times, when it’s about instrumental music. Things like “this music should be listened to with headphones on”…
Of late, the label is Hibernate, based in the UK. I’ve written for Hibernate artists Antonyme and Will Bolton previously. Speaking very generally, the music has appealed to me as it’s been very ambient and dream-like in nature. I usually try to listen actively with headphones (which I am doing as I write this) but sometimes I’ll put a disc in the player for the music to sit in the background.
Writing about instrumental music can be very difficult. As I’ve said before, I find myself repeating the same advice over and over: “listen with headphones” and “decide for yourself”. Fortunately, the press releases for Hibernate artists are very informative and such material makes my work much easier. Currently, I have been asked to write about Isnaj Dui, who is Katie English, hailing from North London, UK. “Abstracts on Solitude”, her first album for Hibernate, was released June 8th and arrived to me by CD along with a copy of of Wil Bolton’s “Under A Name That Hides Her” (which I had requested) and a copy of a collaborative work (Isnaj Dui & Karina ESP: Slow Forms).
This was a few weeks ago. I apologize for being slow in reviewing this; but I have been in very poor health recently. It is partly because of that that I will reference the press release liberally, but also because it is very well written and references what I think are important details. I do not say that lightly as I have read many others for other music I have reviewed and so much is flowery words crafted to draw public interest. That said, I am left to guess as to how she came up with the name “Isnaj Dui”; it sounds vaguely Hindi to me. The following is a lovely example of how press releases for Hibernate artists include information about instrumentation and how the album is created:
With a history of recording and musical study that spans back to 1995, Katie’s current sound is characterised by her use of flute, particularly the bass flute. This is generally a rarely used instrument but is used frequently throughout her work as a defining feature. Add to this a few home-made instruments and electronics and you have the very distinctive sound of Isnaj Dui, a project that has been active since 2004.
The release also explains the album’s cover art as “an out of focus image of wires and circuit boards which was taken as part of a film made for a gig at the Union Chapel [venue].” It goes on to explain how such wires and circuit boards literally shape the album:
...the wires and circuit boards that you see in the cover art are allowed a voice within the album, which lightly scatter the organic sound of flutes and dulcimer. Effects and processing is kept to a minimum wherever possible and only the slightest trace of this is clearly evident. It is within these subtle electronic infiltrations that the album’s charm can be found, as restrained shards of noise, circuit boards, reverb and light hiss rest comfortably on a soft and atmospheric bed created by the acoustic instrument sounds.
The last bit of the release, as follows, is another fine example of how Hibernate illuminates the creative process of its artists:
On ‘What Lies Inside’, Katie had created an immediate response to having suffered a panic attack as a sort of recovery mechanism. The composition process comes from deep within, since she relies more on sub-conscious thought when recording. Whilst Abstract On Solitude is free from clear conceptual confines, it is its sense of lulling calm that becomes the calling card.
The last sentence brings a smile to my lips because it repeats much more beautifully what I said earlier: instrumental music is difficult to write about (listeners should judge for themselves) and that Katie English as Isnaj Dui is another defining example of the dream-like music of Hibernate’s artists.