It is a long-established custom in many cultures to bestow gifts upon a person celebrating a birthday. We do this, in part, to celebrate that those close to us are still here, to thank them for being part of our lives. To celebrate a birthday with gifts, no matter what form they take, is to perhaps recognise the gift that we all share.
Neil Milton celebrated his birthday on the 14th March, and in the quintessentially reciprocal nature of art itself, gifted his new EP – white spring, black cloud – which is currently available to download for free at Bandcamp, via Valentine Records.
You may remember the last release from Neil Milton that I spoke about here, Elements, and the journey I took with that. While there are a few familiar things at play in this four-track EP, the environment has shifted its focus a little – or rather, it has come a little closer. Instead of staring out at it through the window of a moving train, the window is open and the world has decided to get a little up close and personal.
Using field recordings, subtle electronica and other sounds, such as what has been called “pseudo-random sine waves and output from shortwave radio“, white spring, black cloud starts by opening a door. As we walk through, we hear our footsetps echo and our keys jangle, maybe we are home. With the track titled ennui, maybe we need to be.
On 314, the atmosphere feels like it’s swelling and enveloping (which is distinct from closing in), shifting around space until it almost pierces through it rather than simply encompass it. As 314 draws to a close, a light electronic melody appears, which sounds almost like fragments gathering.
biała wiosna, czarna chmura follows, and perhaps shares the most with the delicately moving, modern classical sounds on Elements. A cello and a piano duet, it feels like it has captured a moment before movement and decision. I think the best way for me to describe it is if you have ever had that moment of brief suspension, standing at the doorway to a room that was once occupied by someone else. Even though it’s no longer their room, their presence lingers and you’re still not sure if you can go in and make that room yours in some way. To me, it feels like that moment before saying to yourself, ‘no, not yet‘.
The final track, variations on ‘radio music’ by john cage, simulates the turn of a radio dial, snippets of voice and song peering through the static.
I wonder if it is perhaps an exploration of the same moment in time, from different aspects and perspectives. The shift of the dial, the quiet search, the fragments gathering, the air swelling and the door opening – these things happen over time, and in the blink of an eye.
PS S4E extends (belated – at least from here in Oz!) birthday wishes to Neil.