Simon James French - Anthem (Hibernate)

on Thursday, 4 March 2010
Another hugely impressive release from the Hibernate label and perhaps my favourite on the label so far. Five tracks of drones that border on ethereal, each one lovely and slow. Listen hard enough on opener Serfdom and you can hear the faint sound of children playing against the windy drones and Ian Hawgood like crumples.

It's one of those releases that doesn't overdo it time wise, like Tom White's and Taylor Deupree's releases of last year, you don't feel that you have to take an afternoon off to listen to it, instead, instant, to the point and seemingly tireless.

Simon James French - Anthem - Stream Here

Hibernate Label

What The Domestic Soundscape Said :
I met Simon James French at Middlesex University when I was working on the Cut and Splice Domestic Soundscape podcast series. Along with several other artists he came to the informal workshops/classes I gave there about Sonic Wallpaper and contributed to the discussions on that topic which ended up in podcast #2 of the series, Rooms and Chambers.

I have kept in touch with SJF through following his blog Plundr Tumblr which I really enjoy reading, and was recently interested to read of his EP release, Anthem, which can be heard and downloaded here.

Serfdom - the first track - opens with generously rich and sonorous drones, the rustle of jeans and a distant patina of joyous voices. These drones continue over the subtly-changing soundscape beneath and there is a delicate, fragmentary quality to the snatches of environmental sound-recordings which move in your peripheral hearing as you listen. Is that a dog’s collar jingling? A tractor or other trundling, slow-engined vehicle?

Plunder is distinctly more ominous with more obscure and difficult-to-identify sounds lurking inside one another, ringed by dull, bell-like sounds. The tone darkens in the opening sections of Misery. Somewhere around here environmental sounds begin to rise out of the drone-soup and up to the fore, and there are some lovely sonic elements which remind me of my electronic cooker with its tap-tap-tapping sound, the bubbling hiss of onions frying or perhaps even the sound of rain pattering intensely on a surface. I love how the material qualities of sound are used here; how it somehow suggests wetness or dryness, scratchy or smooth, soft or hard, and how this materiality fleshes out the relative purity of the drones. The ethereal dronescape re-emerges towards the end of Misery and, surrounded by rustling sounds, there is an almost choral atmosphere to this section - like someone singing inside electronic wires - before the ponderous and slowly moving sequences of Falsehood open. Metallic, resonant and restless, this track pans about like an animal trying to get comfortable in its hole and fades to emptiness so that the last track - Shame - can round up the whole EP, which it does, in a rapturous crescendo of tremelo-rich drones, backdropped by what I think is the sound of cars passing.

At times in its gentleness I find this release to be very remeniscent of Greg Davis’s release, Somnia, but where Davis uses very pure drones and melodies which make it feel as though Somnia has been composed in a vacuum-sealed box, SJF allows his music to rub shoulders with a bit more environmental texture and I like this difference between the two. I enjoy the use of sounds throughout, and the pacing of each track, and the sense of Anthem as a complete work with discrete sections. My only criticism of this release is that the epic quality to the track titles and the release title itself - Anthem - do not necessarily, at least to my ears, reflect the delicacy and subtlety of the sounds contained throughout. There is something intimate and mellow about Anthem with its evocations of interior or familiar environs that I find more like vespers and less like an anthem, but I think this is a small point, and the overall sense of choral religiosity in the music makes those giant track titles forgiveable.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your very very kind words, I really appreciate them :)

I'll be writing some new stuff come June and I'd be happy to send you some stuff when it gets written if you'd like to review it for your blog.

Just drop me an email at if you're interested.

Thanks again, SJF