Smagghe & Cross is the meeting of minds of DJ and producer Ivan Smagghe and composer Rupert Cross. After various outings on Idle Press, Belters and our own Ransom Note Records, they make their return to Vladimir Ivkovic's OFFEN music for their second album, 1819.
Over eight tracks, they continue their explorations into eerie and atmospheric realms, this time with a more minimalistic approach that signals feelings of melancholy and hazy memories from times gone by.
In the words of OFFEN: "The music is sparse. The past is forever: ghosts of industries are conjured through the English countryside, fading memories play static with an idea of romance, the sun breaks through the iron clouds. A record free of uncouth nostalgia but laced with ethereal melancholia."
Here the pair guide us through the release track by track...
Sometimes things do not have to be complicated. Simplicity is evocative here, the obvious becoming eerie. Inspired by Paul Klee’s “Taking a line for a walk”, this is a broken chord piano etude but without any pianos, the ghost of a song you have never heard before though you feel you know it by heart. Many running ideas of the album are already present: parallel counterpoint at fixed intervals, echoes of imaginary music playing next door, the fading dream of a walk in the countryside.
From Sacred Heart
Adelle Stripe is an old friend, a writer and poet. She told the story of smoking heroin through biros on our first album for Offen. Narcotic state ensues here, the world slowing down, feet dragging through tar. You’re going down as you’re going up. Something of Death in June may be in the brown combination of synths and quarter-tone tuned acoustic guitar, industrial music with Morris Dancers’ bells.
Thinking of a downlifting dance track, we decided to start with a synth loop we created for our Warden CA remix and ended up in some kind of mossy dub undergrowth or swamp. There are a lot of slanted quotations of ourselves in this album, little drifting things, reminders of and to ourselves. Running all notes through a comb filter fx set to the same pitch brings a false sense of unity.
Somewhere In Time
The title comes from a Jeannot Swarcz movie (adapted from a Richard Matheson novel): a writer travels back in time to 1912 to find a lover he never knew aided by tape machine hypnosis and an gold antique watch that plays Rachmaninoff (Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini). Here the watch mechanism slowly runs out.
This is, in a way, a red flower growing through Drain’s moss (Antheia was the goddess of flowers in Greek mythology). The idea of the sun breaking through clouds was also fundamental to the whole record; we don’t think of 1819 as sad nor dark. It’s an album of in-betweens, of changes, of disintegration and rebirth. Here the organic dissolves into battery acid electronics. Elegiac but not blissed. Two different motifs make up the piece, we hear the first, then the second, then the byproduct of both crashing into each other.
That Remains To Be Seen
Or the future of a past that never was, a door ajar (quoting ourselves again). This record is a record of blurred impressions, of suggestions, things not really seen, sounds not quite heard, sometimes in a proto-psychedelic way, sometimes in a more naive/conservative way. Gareth McConnell’s “ Dream Meadow in Blues, Reds & Pixels” used on the cover, is a perfect visualisation of all those feelings, and Offen, the perfect free house for them (thank you Vladimir for being so non-disruptive).
The Lincolnshire Poacher was the codename for a cold war numbers station (coded messages sent through shortwave radio). Irdial Records issued a CD of recordings of those messages, this is where the man with a pan-european accent comes from. We like to think he is the Lincolnshire Poacher, though the piano music definitely, here, more French. A contradiction once again, but a grey-green one, between rainy bleak urban war landscape and something more pastoral.
Le Soleil Levant
Or the sun rising in French, preferably in watercolour, calmly blinding. As a conclusion, not sure there is more to be said.
Distributed by Rush Hour. Photo Credit: Kate Green.
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