(The Leaf Label)
The highlight of my May Day Bank Holiday was the thoroughly engrossing hour and fifteen minutes that I spent watching some sheep in a field. To be clear, I hadn’t decided to take a long weekend break in the countryside, nor was I watching a Springwatch-style hidden camera online. Instead, this was the live broadcast by Craven Faults, an unveiling of an intoxicating piece of music called ‘PARCEL 451’ which was accompanied by a black and white film, a static shot of some sheep. In a field. Somewhere in Yorkshire.
Although ‘PARCEL 451’ is not on Craven Faults new album ‘Standers’, the piece acted as the ideal appetizer for the major work that was to follow. It prepared you for a world where modular synths create patterns that evolve, that bleed into one another, that rises and falls, a scenery that slowly changes. Music that, if you choose to take part, places you in the landscape he is creating. An immersive experience.
‘Standers’ evolves the sound of Craven Faults from their hypnotic debut album ('Erratics and Unconformities' OL's album of the year in 2020), but the sonic shift is (of course), gradual. Opener ‘Hurrocstanes’ is a perfect example, a sixteen-minute journey across a rugged Yorkshire landscape where the mechanized repetition is reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s finest Trans-European moment. The texture is not as stark, not as forbidding, as their last album, the artist claims that musically there is 'a new palette to paint from' and it's evident here that the sound is richer, more is happening, but that pulsing mechanical sound, is present, drawing you in, mesmerizing you.
The melancholic 'Meers and Hushes' could be the soundtrack to a film not yet made. A cloudy and windswept mood defines the first half of the piece, it then turns introspective and ghostly midway through before reaching its desolate and disintegrating coda. And whilst we're talking about melancholy, the solitary piano on 'Idols and Altars', adds something human, something organic to the haunted imagery. It's a surprising and beautifully positioned addition.
I spent several years living in the North East (what was formerly Cleveland, now part of North Yorkshire), and the sound world created by Craven Faults captures that odd juxtaposition of breathtaking landscape with the way the industry has reshaped so much of the land. The eighteen minutes of 'Sun Vein Strings' places me back in that landscape. The relentless sounds of machinery contrasted with the odd beauty of the sunsets.
I feel that Craven Faults may share my fascination with the minimalism of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley. Music that is shorn of superfluous treats (intros, crescendos - those kinds of things), music that creates textures to engage with. Music that has no comprehension of boundaries. 'Standers' is all this, and more.
May this fascinatingly vivid journey continue.