Amish is pleased to announce the second release in its Required Wreckers series, Ensemble Economique’s Standing Still, Facing Forward (AMI 032R/W).
The primary step in understanding Standing Still, Facing Forward is to recognize Ensemble Economique is Brian Pyle. Brian Pyle is Ensemble Economique. This is the first LP release from Ensemble Economique. Digitalis issued the At the Foot of Nameless Roads CD in 2008. Ensemble Economique’s fantastic earliest recording, entitled No GPS, was bundled as a CDr with a limited initial pressing of At the Foot, but has yet to be properly issued. Both recordings are important primers to Pyle’s nascent invocations of Holger Czukay’s Cannaxis (on No GPS) and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kontake (on At the Foot).
With Standing Still, Facing Forward Ensemble Economique provides the most mature realization of Pyle’s compositional process, which utilizes found sounds, field recordings, and musical performance that he later meticulously edits, layers, and loops in the studio. The effects of these processes are dramatic, cinematic and conceptually rigorous and this recording evidences Pyle as an important new composer emerging out of the long and storied tradition of West Coast experimentalism.
Utilizing a delicate combination of the homespun improvisation of his other project, Starving Weirdos (whose work sounds like an American echo of AMM) with his own unique variation on the European avant-garde in Ensemble Economique, Pyle’s practice involves a dense approach to composition akin to assemblage. But unlike electronic and laptop composition, Pyle’s studio work aims to re-establish an organicism associated with live (or, in the case of the field recordings, lived) performance that pushes the studio out into nature and nature into the studio. In short, the Northern Californian landscape plays an integral part in Ensemble Economique’s soundscapes, and this record captures much of the atmosphere of Pyle’s home terrain.
The record opens with an emotive hint of chamber music in “With You, At Brandy Creek,” in which a lone cello delivers a lyrical line that Pyle then layers, builds and, later, breaks apart and refracts. This approach is echoed on the album’s second side with “Angkor Wat, In the Mist,” a piece that introduces a keyboard theme that repeats itself on subsequent songs like “Night Escape on Water” and “On the Threshold and Through.” Though these tracks utilize synthesizers, wind instruments and delay, and invoke the deep listening of Pauline Oliveros and Ellen Fullman, and the ambient ethos of labels like Touch, Pyle is cautious about subjugating the sounds of his environment to the digital process alone. In many ways, this balance between found and field recordings and the studio/rehearsal space provide the listener with Ensemble Economique’s important contribution to contemporary experimental music.
In both its compositional and conceptual project, Standing Still, Facing Forward recalls another Amish favorite from the last year, Graham Lambkin’s Softly Softly Copy Copy (Kye). Where Lambkin’s doubling is recalled at every turn on his Kye recording—from album title, design and even the length of each of the two tracks—Pyle assumes a less conceptual and more organic approach, obscuring the natural world within the melodic, the studio within the performance, the musician inside the engineer. In so doing, what is recreated in the studio and performed on the stage become less an opposition and more a part of a single continuum. The sounds included on the recording move between harsh industrial landscapes and a delicate lyricism and Pyle’s project celebrates the collapse of these polarities.