Do you remember the last time you were breathing consciously? Either way, you are likely doing it now. On his new album “Observation of Breath” for the Swiss-based Hallow Ground label, Lawrence English worked exclusively with an organ for four compositions that are exercises in “maximal minimalism,” as their creator himself notes in a nod to Charlemagne Palestine, who coined this term. While it seems somewhat fitting that those four pieces based on a steady flow of air were conceived and recorded in a situation of accelerated standstill caused by a respiratory disease, the Room40 founder is not so much concerned with capturing the zeitgeist than rather incorporating the spirit of time itself.
“It is a record about presence and patience,” he explains. Exploring the unique sonic affordances of a singular instrument, “Observation of Breath” is not only devoted to the durability of sound but also to its density. That it marks his debut on Hallow Ground after having shaped its sound by mastering most of the label’s releases in recent years is just as fitting then as its release following albums by Kali Malone and FUJI|||||||||||TA, whose innovative work with organ instruments have facilitated a rediscovery of their possibilities.
English’s compositions however are neither directly indebted nor responding to these musicians. His exploration of the organ’s many facets started a decade ago when the composer was given access to an instrument built in 1889 that is presently housed at The Old Museum in Brisbane. After it had already played a crucial role on his seminal albums “Wilderness Of Mirrors” and “Cruel Optimism,” last year’s self-released “Lassitude” was the first record that English entirely composed and recorded with that instrument. “During the soft lockdowns, I spent many days playing to an empty concert hall, recording the pieces that became >Lassitude< and then, this album,” says English in regards to an unfortunate situation that fortunately provided him with time and space-two major themes but also key qualities of the four new compositions. In this sense, he goes on, “Observation of Breath” resolves a number of the questions originally raised by “Lassitude.”