Boomkat Product Review:
Quite unbelievably, after nearly 40 years of silence and with the help of Important Records and the permission of his estate, Harry Bertoia's hugely collectable and inspiring Sonambient label has been resurrected in order to start releasing his unheard recordings from the recently preserved archive of 1/4" tapes.
Few boxsets have landed heavier on our listening lives than Harry Bertoia’s 11xCD Sonambient Complete Collection (now thankfully available again), which was issued earlier this year to resounding acclaim. For the uninformed, Bertoia was a world-renowned sculptor-cum-sound artist best known for his industrial design work, but also responsible for a series of elemental, near-sacred, long-form recordings of resonant metal rod sculptures and gongs and their incredibly lush harmonic overtones. Now, for the first time in 40 years, we’re offered a first glimpse at previously unheard Sonambient recordings, all direct analog transferred to vinyl just as the artist originally intended for us to hear them, resulting in a completely immersive experience.
The two pieces here were selected both for their minimal, meditative and lush harmonic qualities, displaying another approach to performance via slow washes of shimmering metallic rods with sublime harmonics hovering overhead, making audible measurements of the length and purity of Bertoia's metal sculptures. These new tracts of recursive billow and bat-baffling sonics are among the quietest and spacious examples of Sonambient aesthetics when compared with its more cacophonous iterations.
In the A-side’s Clear Sounds Harry Bertoia coaxes slow, elemental washes of lingering, hi-line zing and low, wide surges of abyssal darkness that threaten to consume all above it, leaving us rapt at the centre of it all as though in the middle of some computer generated cybernetic scape, when, in fact, it’s entirely, bewilderingly a completely acoustic recording.
Likewise Oreste Bertoia’s B-side, Perfetta, where Harry’s brother feels out a more nuanced, vertiginous side of keening spectral complexity that’s leaving us dangerously light-headed right now.
It may be their likeness to the everyday sounds of worksites, industry or trams, or conversely the way in which they recall some of our favourite ambient and drone records by Thomas Köner, Eliane Radigue, Dave Burraston or Mika Vainio, but either way, these recordings are nothing short of incredible, life-affirming messages from the echoplex.
Truly remarkable that Sonambient is a going concern again, much respect to Important and the Harry Bertoia Estate for making it happen.