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Keith Berry - The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish

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Artist: Keith Berry

Album: The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish

Label: Crouton

Review date: May. 1, 2005

Of all the artists I’ve learned of in the past year, few – or perhaps none – have intrigued me more than Keith Berry. Initially, the apparent minimalism and stillness of his music reminds the listener of his sometime Trente Oiseaux labelmates Bernard Günter and Steve Roden. Upon close listening, though, Berry’s music isn’t so minimal or still after all.

Berry’s music is most notable for its textural fullness; The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish is only minimal in the limited sense in which nothing that happens ever begs, or even asks, for the listener’s attention. Beyond that, Berry’s music is very generous – the sounds are exquisitely chosen and placed, there are more of them than there initially seem to be, and although he uses repeating gestures, he doesn’t usually base his music around them. Berry’s music, which is made using samples and field recordings, also sounds like it was created with the recording in mind; The Ear… sounds as good in headphones as, say, a late Labradford album.

The apparent stillness of The Ear… is just the absence of an aggressively pursued direction. Berry likes to say that his music is like drifting down a river (he released an album in 2003 called The Golden Boat), and his simile is apt. The music doesn’t stay in the same place; it just sometimes seems that way because it doesn’t seem as if anyone is too worried about where the boat ends up. It’s directional, but it takes its time to get where it’s going, and the travel from point A to point B is more important than the points themselves.

Because of its textural richness, deliberate pacing and directionality, The Ear… will strike many listeners as evocative and cinematic, which sets Berry apart from many musicians who are otherwise reasonably close points of reference: Roden, Morton Feldman, and Michael Schumacher, for example.

Crouton is releasing The Ear… in a limited edition of 300, which is a shame – more people should hear it. If it becomes unavailable, you might find The Golden Boat or 2004’s Buddha’s Mile. They’re all fairly similar aesthetically, but The Ear… is probably the eeriest of the three (pun not intended).

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of Keith Berry

The Golden Boat

A Strange Feather & Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here

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View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Crouton

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