Abul Mogard / Harmonious Thelonious – Schleißen 1
It’s not easy to keep up with the ebb and flow of Stuart Leath’s Emotional Empire. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to call it an empire even if it has only been in operation for a few years, but between Emotional Rescue, Response, Relish and [Emotional] Especial, already a staggering mountain of releases and reissues sits awaiting the intrepid digger. The latest arm of Leath’s endeavours involves the Schleißen series, which is dedicated to abstract drone and ambient pieces from a diverse range of artists stretched across four installments.
The series begins on a strong footing with this split disc from emergent Serbian artist Abul Mogard and Düsseldorf’s Stefan Schwander in his Harmonious Thelonious guise. The two sides of the record are distinct in nature so it makes sense to evaluate them on their own terms. Mogard makes for a very intriguing character; a retired factory worker from Belgrade who emerged in 2012 with a pair of cassette albums on VCO Records having devoted his new found free time to exploring electronic music. In many ways retirement must surely be the perfect opportunity to dive headlong into production much in the way another hobbyist might discover train sets. Without work and time pressures and no desperate financial motivation, it seems the ideal setting in which to freely roam as an artist.
That context fits with the sound of “Dizziness That Shakes Rivers And Mountains”, which unfolds over eighteen minutes of undulating pads shot through with a carefully handled distortion and a considered amount of bombast. It’s undeniably moving, as slow burning chords drift by at a glacial pace that completely smothers you, leaping beyond the backdrop pleasantries of play-it-safe ambient music to become a far more visceral experience. That this music was borne from a man with no time constrictions to speak of is palpable, and there is perhaps within those slightly mournful tones a contemplation about such a point in life, what has come before and what may lie ahead.
In comparison to those bold emotions, the Harmonious Thelonious side has a more overtly academic feel. Schwander has always stated that this one of his many projects is inspired by, amongst other things, American minimalism, and he has gone as far as to state these particular pieces are indebted to the looming influence of Steve Reich. Even to the uninitiated that would seem obvious from the get go, as a hypnotic weave of interlocking melodies cascades with the graceful elegance that typifies the most familiar approaches of Reich, Riley et al. Across twelve and eight minutes respectively, the two “Abstract Paintings” Schwander has created build themselves with infinitesimal shifts of detail, the latter sporting the most noticeable progressions but both masterful exercises in repetition and evolution of musical phrases. That these phrases are played out through such glorious, glossy synth tones makes the experience all the more cosmic. From a personal perspective, the more overt climactic organ lines and low end percussion that worm their way into “Abstract Painting 104-105_7#02” create a spine-tingling effect that edges it past the more measured lilt of the longer track, although both are grand achievements in their own right.
It’s interesting after evaluating the artists separately to consider them side by side, and there is much to be said for the correlation between Mogard and Schwander’s approaches. It’s not easy to make such doggedly patient music exciting to listen to, when the component parts are few and the run time long, but in both cases the very different results have been a complete success. It’s a release that builds anticipation for the next three editions of the Schleißen series.
A1. Abul Mogard – Dizziness That Shakes Rivers And Mountains
B1. Harmonious Thelonious – Abstract Painting 114-115_3#03
B2. Harmonious Thelonious – Abstract Painting 104-105_7#02