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Stuart Sweeney releases debut solo LP 16:9
A one man analogue orchestra producing a soundtrack that needs no film
What’s that? It’s the noise of 16 tireless months in the studio. It’s like listening to three decades in the music industry.
It’s also the sound of homemade, hand-welded percussion instruments, without an audible drum. Impressive then, that it’s one man and his Mac in Northamptonshire, with two great ears.
His debut long-player, 16:9, is a soundtrack to the greatest of epics- seamless seconds of breathtaking aural vision. Fleeting sonic supernovas that inspire emotion and command attention, while blending beautifully into the natural world of the listener. Think the exploratory moments of Vangelis’ Bladerunner score, here rooted in the instrumentalism so vital to the early 21st Century, and its broad definition of ‘popular music’.
Bird songs can be heard, punctuating an almost visible landscape, such is the tangible depth to these compositions. Pianos fall gently into background space, as strings, synths and a host of other, often unexpected musical tools combine to create a tragic, heroic and captivating movie in the mind. A road trip on a mass scale, the sombre closing credits of Cherry Blossom Falls offer up Vienna in violin arrangements, while Kaiyu-Shiki transports you to the eponymous Japanese garden, via a thousand crystalised chimes.
Darker moments abound in Memories Lost, as decomposing tape creates a feeling of faded photography and silent, battle-scorched earth. Meanwhile, The Fire Within recounts a town springing into life on a dark winter’s morning, as ambient noise becomes hook and then melody. It might seem lazy to reel off disconnected, imagined instances. But then few films have been this vivid in the landscapes and atmospheres they create.
Stuart Sweeney has spent countless hours exploring the English countryside surrounding his home and the sounds to be found, and more importantly recorded, therein. But, far from abstract, all 12 tracks offer something reminiscent of Yann Tiersen’s cinematic power, blended with the electronic-experimentation of The Heritage Orchestra. And there’s something wholly new too. Far from field music, this is a sublime one-man symphony.
And that’s just what makes this release so inspired. Part contemporary classical, part sound art, all compelling. There’s no tunes here, just stories being told, moments getting captured and emotions laid bare. All the while remaining under the control of a technically disciplined musical aficionado. Hear the tracklist individually, or hear it all as one. Either way, from beginning to end, while under Sweeney’s spell, you won’t be doing much else.