«Apparition Paintings» borrows a term used to describe a certain type of ancient Chinese painting of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, often associated with Chan (Zen) teachings. The ink used to depict the subject in these paintings was exceptionally pale, the background lacking in any detail, thus capturing its subjects in mid-fade as if managing to preserve only a dimly translucent after-image of a bygone entity”. This description radiates faithfully the elusive essence of the music of British composer, improviser, sound artist, author, and scholar of audio culture and improvisation David Toop. This album is released together with Toop’s «Field Recordings and Fox Spirit» (Room40), an audio collage from the five decades of Toop’s career.
Toop composed 12 short soundscapes with highly poetic, but also cinematic, literate, and somehow philosophical titles that «give a feeling of romantic or sexual love or some dark pool of nostalgia». But he claims that his aim is totally different: «for me, it’s about the teeming proliferation of complex events in the world, their vivid, hyperreal intensity as this human life steps closer to its end and their sense of fading, like a mist that thins out to leave not a clear bright day but almost nothing of substance as all that beauty is crushed, burned, dug up, wiped out, to be replaced by banality, so it’s about a language of love and desire in which we speak openly to all the unknowns, the speculative, the ancestral, the forgotten, the different, the extinct, the unimaginably distant and vast, the incomprehensibly small and intimately close, the fast or the slow…»
Toop constructs vivid and enigmatic, electro-acoustic sonic puzzles that melt the sounds of conventional instruments with home-made instruments, field recordings – including a 1995 recording of the voice of Ornette Coleman – and feminine voices of Elaine Mitchener, Keiko Yamamoto, and Yifeat Ziv. Each soundscape has its distinct, sensual, and sometimes dream-like sonic ecosystem, that has its own inner logic and its own pulse. Sometimes his cinematic guitars – especially on «Smaller life spirits (that inhabit the joints)», sound as taking Ry Cooder into a trip in imaginary, exotic territories. Toop’s genre-blind approach («Who cares? Half the world is drowning; the other half is in flames») embraces song-like themes as on the infectious «All I Desire», and free-improvisation on «When I first came here (I thought I’d never get used to the trains; now when it’s quiet I get nervous)». Despite the apocalyptic tone, only «She fell asleep somewhere outside the world» and «Some of them (to isolate themselves even further, beat their own ears until the tiny bones within were crushed)» transmit a sense of fateful urgency. This fascinating journey concludes with Toop’s suggestion for a ritualist-secular hymn for our troubling times, «Suddenly the world had dropped away».
David Toop (snail shell whistle, bamboo flute played into a well, g, fl, whistles, b, b.rec, dr, keys, other instruments, sounds and field recordings, voice of Ornette Coleman), Elaine Mitchener (v), Keiko Yamamoto (v), Yifeat Ziv (v), Áine O’Dwyer (harp), Rie Nakajima (obj), Paul Burwell (original recording of bells)