Review: Akpatok – Two Winters, Two Springs

Akpatok - Two Winters, Two SpringsYou’re definitely missing something, so just keep listening. Each of these six pieces – created entirely using just hurdy-gurdy, shepherd bells and gongs, and only ever one at a time – is a tribute to perseverance and the sensory ignorance of the first impression. The frantic rattle of “Tree And Wind”, which sounds like a set of bells dangled from branches during a gale, first allures with its urgency and palpitating rhythm; at certain moments the bells seem to be attempting to raise a state of alarm, breaking out of their idle sway into spasms of violent jangle. I keep listening. I start to hear a certain dullness within each peal; allusions to a bronze dulled by time and weather, muffling the sound in rust. I keep listening. I hear strange overtones spilling off the top of each chime, encircling the main chime with ribbons of shrill birdsong, decorating my listening with more detail than I can comprehend.

Gongs become choirs of metallic frequency. On “Opowieści Wielkiej Góry”, I can hear Akpatok rapping different regions of the gong with a soft mallet (or perhaps his knuckles?), learning how each surface spot emits its own unique patina of harmony. A low bass frequency runs consistently underneath, quivering gently with each impact and swelling as the connection intensifies (this only becomes apparent to me around the five-minute mark, despite its prominent presence throughout). Within the duets of hurdy gurdy, I start to imagine interwoven cradles of frayed rope, with each croak of the bow enacting another new break in the thread. Steady drones start to throb as they rub against neighbouring notes, until the whole thing starts to pulsate like an overactive heart, heaving and contracting in vague co-ordination. Quicker than I realise, simple actions start to trigger entire whirlpools of friction, resonance, texture and harmonic microcosm. It’s an unfathomably deep record – but only once I’m ready to hear it as such.