Review: PJE – Permanent Memory

It begins with an assembly of held tones, like a single point in time strung out into the distance. Violins glisten brightly as they span out into pleasantly dissonant harmonies – like the off-axis drones of Tony Conrad with the serrated edges of bow attack sanded down – while voices (or at least, what sounds like voices) glide in a glorious, spiritual chorus, dipping beneath the din of walkie-talkie distortion and chatter. I feel lost within the rich, sun-bright suspension of “Calligraphy”, but pleasantly so.

The other tracks continue the sense of being frozen at tipping point; the place that exists only momentarily in transition, as one place melts into the other. As “Hilbre Island” combines clatter and shuffle of feet on a hollow floor with a mixture of beautiful reverse choirs and crooked glacial shapes, I ponder the title of Permanent Memory – is it a state of never forgetting? Of a lifetime’s recollection of landscapes, voices, people, places, trapped in the same headspace and forced to overlap and juxtapose? A strange sensation arrives, of feeling both calm and restless simultaneously. The textures drift delicately, like allowing one’s limbs to relax and be carried by a tidal flow, yet they’re frequently gripped by a fidgety, unnatural movement – caught in loops or sliding ungracefully upward, zig-zagging through the pitches.

“Helium Flow” is a personal highlight. The sound of birthday party chatter warped by spiralling, garbling phaser, caught within more string drones that feel as clean and brittle as a vase; pure, yet flickering with the threat of fracture. While much music of this variety finds strength in the predictability and reliability of staying still, Permanent Memory hangs on the edge of breaking point, as if the friction between its overlain soundscapes could catch fire at any moment.