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Rosy Parlane - Iris

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Artist: Rosy Parlane

Album: Iris

Label: Touch

Review date: May. 18, 2004

My impressions of this album have been indelibly shaped by the cover photo of a blue-filtered, scrupulously symmetrical winter. Parlane’s layers of long, wavering tones and hissing static are, like the image, crisp, bright, and detailed; it’s hard to believe that this music was recorded in the breezy and not-too-icy environs of Auckland, New Zealand.

But geographical origin isn’t so important to this music; while Parlane’s musical roots are in New Zealand, where he first recorded (with the trio Thela) and established his most enduring musical relationship (with Dion Workman, of Thela and Parmentier), he’s spent the better part of a decade living the “have laptop, will travel” life, basing himself in the UK and Australia and performing with such diverse musicians as Eddie Prevost, Mattin, and Fennesz. Likewise, Parlane’s tools (reportedly piano, guitar, sampler, digital sound processing) don’t mean too much; this isn’t instrumental music, but deftly deployed sound. Sound so powerful that it’s rather hard to write about — every time I put the record on and sit down at the keyboard to write, I end up just listening.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Iris’s three tracks are numbered, not named, a none-too-subtle redirection away from language and toward so the record’s considerable sensual presence. But words are what we use at Dusted, so let’s get to work. “Part 1” emerges reluctantly from silence; high, flickering tones accrue around a swelling, organ-like figure like filings upon a magnet. The central figure hints at but don’t quite resolve into a churchy melody; a distant jet-like whoosh thickens the sound, then a blizzard of bright hiss brings static (or is it running water?) to the foreground. Static, but not stasis, because even when you can’t spot any moving parts, Parlane’s music feels like it’s going somewhere. On “Track 2” he patiently refines and reduces the sound to a single long-held flutter, savors its hypnotic essence a while, then lets it go. Liberated, it flits into an aggregate of subtly rhythmic elements, to jubilant effect. “Part 3” is darker and heavier, like storm clouds lit with lightning. But there’s no thunder; the dark grind just gets louder, as though you’re flying towards the cloud. Then you’re through it, bursting into a flicker that’s at once naturalistic and mechanical. Is it water on rocks? A film projector? Wind rustling ice crystals from the tree branches on the cover? Before you can say, it’s gone — until you turn the CD on again.

By Bill Meyer

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