CYLIMEN: INSTRUMENTAL PURITY FROM SAM’S FALLING (By Rod Drown)
Light, the new and entirely instrumental work from Pim Bouwens, who is one half of the musical duo Sam’s Falling (the other part being Cynthia Hall), is a splendidly evocative work from an artist of evolving imagination.
The CD contains ten pieces of music that are a fresh blending of finely played instruments and beautiful sounds involving modern electronic percussion/sequencers, ambient sounds, acoustic instruments, and nature’s nuanced noises melded together with well-crafted technique and sensitive understanding. The work begins with the majestic Alaska which, through electronic drum sequencer, electric guitar, synthesizers and guitar noise loops, recreates on an aural level that particular landscape with its implications of vast distance and ever-cycling seasonal change. The music has been created, to my mind, to give a sense that the events are all taking place under the music of the stars overhead. Especially pleasurable is the "instrumental chanting" with which the piece ends.
In Pillow Feather Bouwens uses synthesizers, strings and Indian tabla drums to suggest sleep’s journey into the diurnal realms that lie behind and then beyond the initial eidetic imagery that comes upon closing one’s eyes. I was quite knocked out by his evocation of the day’s ending. It opens with long sonorous chords -- the music of breathing. The piece continues for a time with two layers – a long rhythmically melodious organ and a sort of very subtle beeping (like that of an electric clock). Then, carefully, a third emerges – a sort of hollow African drumming (the Indian tabla drums). At times, from under that third sound, there occurs a fourth one (much more elusive) that suggests a tentative tenderness.
The aural message of Pillow Feather is that we sleep in other worlds. As electric clocks tick rhythmically, as the uranium atoms of the World Clock disperse in unchanging regularity downward into the next elements of the Periodic Table, we open and enter inner realms – worlds of childhood and adulthood, the diverse worlds of the Shadow, the Muse and the Self. Pim really captures the occasionally vagabond nature of our sleeping lives. Or, and I cannot resist this, that reality suggested by Van Morrison in Astral Weeks:
If I ventured in the slipstream
In the viaducts of my dreams
Would you still find me?
Pillow Feather is just great!!! As I listened to it, I gained the sense of a precisely arranged, via instrument, rhythm and interlude, presentation of the journey into sleep. I have the sense of a sleep’s journey into dream, and further beyond dream – into Jungian concepts like the Shadow. I wanted to know if I had received what Pim Bouwens had intended. His answer:
"The dreamlike state or the few moments between being awake and falling asleep is exactly what I try to capture with Pillow Feather. Those few moments (or meditation which gives me a similar feeling) tend to be a great creative resource for me as a songwriter."
The title cut Light is really very calming and contains instruments sliding in and out of our hearing, in and out of our consciousness. There is an immensity of imagination in Bouwens’ work – knowledge of the immensity of what exists already and of what can exist. Light also has some fine interludes of lovely riffing between base and flutes.
Cynthia Hall’s haikus have added another dimension of expression to the work. Such lines as
A leaf hangs there still
Unconcerned by its next move
It knows it will come
with their delicacy of expression, showing us the melodies that can be experienced in things that are seen.
All through these ten songs, chords and notes from instruments that are musical cousins arise and flow, flow and fall. Music has such a capability of being descriptive; one imagines scenes unfolding…
In many of these songs of Pim’s there are hints of distant vistas, of melancholy, of mists rising from before the castles of Avalon, of energy calling to energy.
Mirrors is Glen Gould-like, a small masterpiece done to acoustic piano. To me, it had a delicate extended melody line that was a variation on a four note theme. There is a surprisingly unexpected ending to it, but it occurs in a quiet way. It is as if a person seen by few had exited from a temporarily existing room. To me it had the feel of something very suitable for a dance piece. I asked Pim if he wrote it with that in mind.
"No I haven't, but it's a very interesting idea. I'd love for the music to be incorporated into other art forms."
In a general way, I asked Pim how he had arrived at the titles for each piece. I wanted to know if he had carried around, in his imagination’s ear, a melody or a sound sequence and then, once he had completed it, gave it a name. Or, if he had, say in the case of a song like Alaska, a conception or a vision of landscape and then had created to that idea?
"Each piece has had its own process. Titles could come from just one sound I was working with, from the first thing that came to mind while listening back to the song after finishing it. [In the] case of Alaska, [it came] from the video I was preparing for the song which included video images shot in "Alaska," he explained.
Another favorite of mine is Rising. This one includes real bird sounds. It seems to be about dawn and the breaking of sunshine into the world. In this one every so often a sprightly melody breaks in; a similar construction to what a classical composer like Antonin Dvorak did in his New World Symphony.
Pim Bouwens is currently working on a Cylimen DVD which, when finished, will include the music with video and picture images. Some video samples are already available on the website.
Internet users can hear songs from Cylimen at www.cylimen.com. The CD is available as a hard copy or as a digital download.