Pastoral. Let’s think about that word for a moment. In its simplest definition, it relates to things that are of the countryside. Dig deeper, and there is a long tradition in the arts of creating works in drama, literature, and music that portray stories of the people of the countryside, mainly shepherds and shepherdesses. The first one that comes to my mind is Beethoven‘s 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral Symphony“.
In the form of PASTORAL, released digitally by Transylvanian Tapes on April 19, 2020, we have a piece that is darker, starker, and more still than Beethoven‘s work. Unlike the 6th, this work conjures up emotions of worry and isolation. The songs are comprised primarily of a single guitar, embellished only by effects as far as I can hear. With this minimal instrumentation, Patrick Hills takes us on a journey into the countryside of his mind, and by reflection, our own.
The reverb-drenched guitar echoes through the chasms of thought, bringing chills to the listener with every note. Allowing you to lose space and time in the seemingly simple compositions, each one given a title only of the date it was committed to magnetic dust on a strip of plastic film. While the overall tone is one of being close to despair, there is also peace. The final track holds redemption, carrying you back from the brink and offering hope.
The journey starts with “May 23“. Minimal guitar echoes into the space around you, vast, empty; a calm sea of sound at first, but then small ripples appear, shimmering back and forth across the water of time. You feel isolated, solitary, alone, and the music begins to instil tension and fear, a sense of dread.
“October 27” has you falling under the water, seeing the daylight above, but not able to reach it, trapped under ice. You experience profound feelings of suffocation and drowning, but without fear, only acceptance. Then you are rising up out of the water, reborn, celestial, the waves are beneath you as you ascend.
Now peace and tranquillity envelop you on “September 3”; you are becoming one with the dark, nothingness that surrounds all of us. The unconscious collective consciousness of space, a great blanket spreading over the universe. Then on “August 10”, you are descending out of the darkness, back to the terrestrial plane. You begin to feel pain and anguish, the vibration of the world crashing against itself. Conflict and rage building up as tones begin to fold back in upon themselves, heightening the sense of dread.
“March 10” finds you brooding in contemplation, searching for the path forward. “August 5” engulfs you in a swirling drone of feedback and carries you further down into darkness, disintegrating thought. Breaking concentration, but also disrupting negative patterns.
The arrival of “June 27” brings all worry and doubt back into focus; what to do, how to do it, how to achieve all. You can visualise the bonds of freedom, the shackles of humanity, but cannot see a way to break them.
The final track, “May 10”, hope returns with the dawn of new light and the possibility of freedom from the depths of despair. All is possible. Isolation will end. The end is unknown and unknowable, but that’s alright. You return to a peaceful state of mind.
This sonic exploration was issued by James Rauh of Transylvanian Tapes. I recall seeing the notification of this release in my Bandcamp feed back in April. James was clearly excited to put this one out despite it being a bit different than his typical releases. I am very glad that he made that decision as PASTORAL is a singular gem in the Transylvanian Tapes discography.
Rating – 5/5