Yellowcake (Andras Klang, 2008 r. 2009)
Byline: When everything is music, nothing is. And that’s the way it should be.
For: Oval, Nobukazu Takemura, Jim O’Rourke
My dictionary lists two definitions for the word “ambient.” The second is the more traditional one we’re all probably used to, especially in the business of music analysis and appreciation:
Ambient (noun) also ambient music: A style of instrumental music with electronic textures and no persistent beat, used to create or enhance a mood or atmosphere
It’s the first definition I find much more interesting, however:
Ambient (adjective [ attrib. ]): Of or relating to the immediate surroundings of something.
The first song off Sean Patrick’s Yellowcake - recently reissued by his own label, Andrasklang - embodies this definition to the T. Simply titled “Andras Silent Recording,” the album opens with four and half minutes of literally nothing: complete and utter silence. But the idea of recording nothing is ingenious because this silence is anything but - it’s a loud, busy, wondrous void that is pregnant with sound and meaning. Patrick invites listeners to take this record outside with headphones and let nature and its surroundings - the deafening clamor and noise of life itself - vibrate your ears through the ticking clock of time. This is “ambient” in the sense that it quite simply is the immediate surroundings of the listener. To record nothing is thus to essentially record everything. Patrick’s art is introduced as a defiant refusal to conform to or crystalize reality in a single shape or idea. This music, like nature, is never the same twice. It’s always changing, different, and as a result, Yellowcake is an always slightly obscured, yet infinitely rewarding and challenging listen.
But the best thing about the opening moments of Yellowcake is that it’s just the beginning. The album unfurls with what Patrick might call his more conventional style, lending itself better, perhaps, to the more traditional definition of “ambient music.” Consisting of whirling, backwards bell tones and nervous clicking-ratchets that tickle the senses, Patrick’s work recalls some of Oval’s best moments. Yellowcake has a random quality to it, as if a natural breeze plays the record. As such, the artist is disconnected from this music. The album’s title track opens with a struggling voice, searching desperately for words that just won’t come, hindered by the music’s own devices of manipulation, electronics swallowing any semblance of humanity whole as Patrick seems to let go and become one with an art that has a life of its own.
In a world where trends reign supreme, and themes, styles, messages, and ideas are constantly force-fed to a public desperate to make sense of, and latch on to some sense of order or direction, Sean Patrick’s Yellowcake feels like an essential album. It’s a calming aesthetic that recalls gentle backwoods afternoons, cabins with roaring fireplaces, wide open, rolling meadows, or really, insert-your-memories-here. It radically challenges straight-forward associations and champion’s personal experience above all else. People are a part of nature, and music is a byproduct of that sentiment. Everyone will have a different experience with Yellowcake, and that in and of itself makes it one of the most unique records I’ve come across in 2009.