Small Life Form
hen I opened to liner notes to One, the first album from Silber Media head Brian John Mitchell’s Small Life Form project, it told me that “the tracks on this recording are designed so they may all be listened to simultaneously while looped”. Now, that’s a really neat idea, but I have no idea how I could personally put it into practice. And, having no experience with Silber’s releases or Small Life Form itself, it gave me a completely wrong idea of what One would be like.
Hearing that the seven tracks here were intended to be listened to together, I imagined the they would each be sparse and somehow incomplete without the others, like interlocking puzzle pieces that only made sense as a whole, or, to put it another way, that it would be like listening to the Flaming Lips’ Zaireeka one disc at a time.
Instead, what I found was a series of thick, rich drones, occasionally reminding me in timbre of the early work of Flying Saucer Attack, and resembling in progression Spacemen 3’s old drone piece ‘An Evening Of Contemporary Sitar Music’ (which is fully capable of hypnotizing a person for its full 44 minute duration). Each track is named for the instruments used within (‘Cymbal’, ‘Organs’, ‘Melodica’) and was performed by Mitchell alone and without overdubs. Some of the tracks (including a recording of the “vera pulsar” via radio telescope) are shorter, lasting 2-3 minutes in length, while the others are in the 9-10 minute range, the longest being ‘Horns’ at 11:50.
‘Horns’ is also the most compelling work here, a single slow pulse on trumpet being bathed in delay and echo; the end effect is similar to watching a freighter dock in heavy fog, of something looming out of thick mist.
Given the individual sonic depth of each of the tracks here, I’m not sure how they’d sound mashed up against one another, but I can easily see Mitchell putting on a satisfying live show using just the contents of One, introducing new elements and fading them out, building on the vocal samples of ‘Small’ or the swell of ‘Organ’. The shorter pieces are just as interesting (particularly ‘Cymbal’), and would make interesting additions once looped.
The reason One makes such a good listen, though, is that even when you can’t perform that sort of trickery at home, the tracks here work just as well in isolation. Mitchell’s mission is, to quote the Silber website, to focus on “sound as an entity meant to be concentrated on, not casually listened to “. On One, he’s succeeded.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-01-15