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Cloud Holding

by "Bryce Hackford"

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Fires 04:51 video
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Over 02:57
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Cloud Holding is NYC-based Bryce Hackford’s fifth full-length work, and his first with Futura Resistenza. Seven figures emerge out of recorded improvisations with a group of musicians: Ka Baird, Shelley Burgon, Alice Cohen, Michael Hurder, Dominika Mazurová, Camilla Padgitt-Coles. The instrumental utterances (including the original instrument—the voice) of these varied talents are gently treated and coaxed by the composer, nudged into little sculptures of sound which express an always drifting present.

The album follows Safe (Exits), a collection of minimalist beat orientations delivered by Spring Theory in 2020. Cloud Holding answers its predecessor with deliberately inverted qualities: treated acoustic instruments rather than electronic, no drums or low end, mostly vocal, and mostly different contributors. The contrasting qualities of the two albums are derived from a familiar composition strategy: the sounds were made by musicians who often could not hear each other while performing. With this method, Hackford channels directly into the synchronicity of collaborative music-making, casting formless songs from disparate materials spangled with mysterious affinity.

Although harmonious, Cloud Holding does not shy from dissonance. The rubbing up of sounds is embraced for its lilting intimacy, its conversational melody. Though gentle, there are uncanny moments: the pulsing raga with its quietly rattling insistence that is “Is Anyone Home;” the anomalous chord and stick dragging along a chain-link fence in “Cloud Holding Sculpture.” Stranger moments are always balanced with welcome, though: particularly the buoyant dream song couple of “Anticipation Clip (Field Hope)” and “Cassette Mascara Parade,” mallets and swirl and croon.

Two instrumental voices in particular guide this extemporizing drift. The Suzuki Nobara, a kind of electric koto with many traditional instrument sounds and unique pitch adjustment controls, is foundational to the composition of Cloud Holding, and the majority of its tracks were begun with it. Its versatility—of tunings as well as sounds—and its esoteric source influenced a writing process embracing unique results through meticulous yet variable improvisation. Along with the Nobara, the human voice shepherds these pillowy formulations into compositions, its searching quality lighty unfurling lyric-less songs that were always there and which are noticed, felt, and brought forth. The instrumental qualities of the voice—or the vocal qualities of the instrument, its timberal, respirational and kinetic capabilities—is approached from a folk turn, as well as doubtlessly the influence of Ka Baird, a long time collaborator of Hackford’s and together half of the quartet Genetisis, a previous FR project.

The influence of Czech composer Jiří Stivín’s early collaborative records, especially the somehow open yet tight avant Jazz experimentations Excursions (1982) and Reflections (1985), can be felt filtering into Cloud Holding and its conspiratorial, oscillating intensity. As in Safe (Exits), inspiration from Hungarian Tibor Szemző’s sylvan, cinematic studies can also be heard. Mostly, though, it sounds as if the record is influenced by the particular noises from which it was made—it shines with both private and shared “moments,” an effect which is most striking in all of Hackford’s efforts. Cloud Holding reflects an artist tracing delicate outlines in the present moment, in all its transforming complexity, as well as its simplicity.

Nina Bower Crooke

credits

released February 22, 2022

Produced by Bryce Hackford
Basic tracking in Brooklyn, NY, overdubs in various locations
Mixed by Bryce Hackford at 79 Lorimer, 2020
Mastered by Felix-Florian Tödtloff
Cover image: Ian LC Swordy, Cat with Bird and Stones (detail), 2020
Design by Koos Siep

Thank you: Austin Brown, Tom Campbell, Bob Cohen, Matt Evans, Lucy Morris, Moskowitz Bayse, Aaron Scaturro, Frederic Van de Velde

Futura Resistenza
Brussels/Rotterdam, 2022

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