| Jimmy Behan | The Echo Garden
Time: May 09
Media: Digipak CD & Digital Download
Info: The Echo Garden is delicately poised collection of
ambient microsounds, tiny, fragile yet beautifully
Artist site: http://www.jimmybehan.net/
PDF Press Release: Download
|QUESTIONS | Jimmy Behan
Why do you write music?
From a young age, I was hooked on the sounds coming
from the radio, whether they were pop hits or short-
wave static, it was all very magical. To be a master of
these dark arts was very appealing. I suppose like a lot
of people, I had that moment when you go to your record
collection and just can’t find anything that really hits the
spot, and so decided to try make my own. At the time I
had been discovering electronic music and was very
excited by the idea of recording at home and the
freedom this gave.
How would you describe your music?
I suppose at the moment I would describe it as an
exploration of textures, colours and space and how
sounds relate to certain responses in the listener. I don't
like referring to what I do as either electronic or acoustic
Maybe the days when such distinctions needed to be
made are behind us. I like the idea of impressionistic
music, whereby every little detail can combine to create
a whole, but at the same time, still provide interest in
the detail. I suppose it’s abstract, but only in the same
way a tree or a rock is abstract.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a kind of quantum music,
which can only be heard peripherally. As soon as you
focus attention on any particular sound, it disappears.
What does this album mean to you?
With this album, I was less concerned with any cultural
or genre specific references and just concentrate on
sounds. In other words, get rid of all the music and just
leave the good stuff. There was no sampling on this
album, unlike my first one, which was all samples and
very referential to music which had influenced me
throughout my life. I made certain rules regarding
instrumentation, such as no guitars, no drums, no
vocals, no synth pads etc. which helped focus the
palette more clearly. The sounds I used were a mix of
quite simple timbres (piano, sine tones) which contrast
easily with the found sounds and field recordings. I
wanted it to sound quite intimate and immersive,
bringing the details up close. It’s a taking stock album,
I suppose, both musically and personally. The title
refers to memory and familiarity with a place I hadn’t
been since I was a child. I used to think this track
which ran along side the river led to the end of the
world, and when you reached it, you would just turn
around and go home again. I think the current socio
-political situation had me thinking in terms of time
running out set against the sense of belonging in
a certain place.
Can you elaborate on some of your creative
It can start with anything, a sound with a particular
texture or shape. Then I’ll just explore it with various
processing and manipulation and see if it speaks to me.
Over the years, I’ve become less interested in music as
such and more in sound. Trying to combine an army of
sounds into music can often be a frustrating
experience. But taking one sound, and seeing what
music lies within it can be very rewarding. I work very
simply with just a PC, Audiomulch and DAW, portable
recorder, contact mics etc. The sounds usually
influence what processes I use and I try not to force
my will on them. I’ll often use gates and dynamics in
general to let the sounds find their own space in a mix.
After that, it’s matter of creating contrast and depth
between the various elements. I don’t like things to
sound too layered or structured. I’ll often try to utilize
one sound’s properties as a means to process
another, so they all relate sonically, rather than
just as distinct layers.
What are your future plans?
I want to just keeping making music and recording for
as long as I’m able. I took three years out to study after
the first album, so I’m keen to get a lot more work done
soon. The next album is almost done and due for
release in November ‘09 on the new Nomadic Kids
Republic label. I hope to finish another album by the
end of the year as well as an album by Glissen,
which is myself and Kate McKeon. Other projects on
the back burner are an album based on a book called
The Crane by Reiner Zimnik and an audio diary of my
cat. I’m working on expanding my live set too, to
incorporate more contact mic recording and live
improvisation, so I hope to be playing a lot more gigs.
|REVIEWS | The Echo Garden
The beauty is in the detail. Carlow-born Jimmy Behan has been producing pristine, emotional, intricate electro-
acoustic music for a couple of years. Since his 2004 debut, Days Are What We Live In , he has taken a less-is
-more approach to his sound palate. This process of refinement and streamlining, as well as the obvious
influence of more minimal composers, has led Behan to The Echo Garden , a beautifully mannered series of
barely-there shapes, shifts and shadows. It’s quite clear from the way Behan manages and develops these
micro-moods and flickering bursts of ambient soundscapes on tracks such as Clock for No Time that he can
do quite a lot with very little. Best of all, he has retained the warm, emotional heart and soul that stirred in the
midst of his earlier work.
Album Of The Week:
The return of this irish based electronic artists and the long overdue follow up to his debut from 2004. if we had
a chart of top irish albums by ex members of staff here in road records then mr behan would be number one
this week. jimmy behan has written, produced and recorded absolutely everything on this album and its a truly
meticulous piece of electronic composition. its hard to get to get beyond comparisons to the likes of fennesz
and biosphere so lets just say that fans of either of those artists will absolutely adore this album. its full of
glitchy but warm sounding electronic soundscapes with lots of lovely watery like effects and delicate organ
sounds. its very much an album that really comes to life on headphones where you can truly get a feeling for
the intricate details and mass of layered sounds deep in the mix. a real treat and a must for fans of the sounds
of labels like touch. June 2009.
THE MILK FACTORY
Irish sound artist Jimmy Behan first appeared in 2001 with an EP released on Kin Recordings and a split single
with Connectfour Orchestra on Road Relish, but it is with his debut album, Days Are What We Live In, released
three years later, that he first got the chance to fully showcase his sound, bringing together acoustic instruments,
found sounds and electronic treatments to create evocative sonic vignettes. Five years and a couple of EPs later,
Behan returns, this time on the excellent Audiobulb, with The Echo Garden, his second full-length.
While Days Are What We Live In had quite a bucolic feel, Behan was working with folk song structures which
he adorned with gentle beats and discreet electronics, finding himself somewhere roughly in the vicinity of Four
Tet or early Manitoba/Caribou. The Echo Garden is a much more free-flowing and delicate affair, as he strips his
compositions of any rigid element and focus on the dream-like aesthetic of his sound formations. The result is a
wonderfully airy and fresh collection which, echoing the picture on the cover, catches light through beautifully
crafted layers of sonic particles. There is, here, very little remaining of the fully formed melodies that formed the
backbone of Days Are What We Live In. Instead, it is through slight changes in tone or grain that Behan builds
his narrative and affects the mood of a piece, occasionally adding a discreet piano or guitar motif as to trace,
for a moment, a stronger line over a dusting of shimmering sounds. This is the case on the gossamer Pools for
instance which opens with a hazy drone but takes a more defined shape as a warm piano pierces through
the clouds, or later on the desolate Leaving Here, where a muffled loop progressively goes out of sync.
There is an impression of decay throughout this record, at times captured in the track titles (Rust, Leaving Here,
Clock For No Time, Derelict, Dusk) and persistently embodied in the sound elements used and the treatments
applied. Behan doesn’t work with crystalline soundscapes and polished surfaces. Instead, each sound is aged,
distressed, rendered grainy and textured, and placed within larger constellations which in turn flicker like old
films or scintillate like pieces of glass in the sun. Pieces like Rust, Clock For No Time or Across The Rooftops
have a warm glow about them which radiates far beyond their respective span and appear to spill over their
surrounding environments, while at the same time appearing blemished and patined.
In the five years between his first and second album, Jimmy Behan has totally rethought his approach and moved
away from recognisable structures to develop his own language, and, while his sound sources haven’t changed
massively, it is what he does with them and how he blends them together that gives The Echo Garden its intense
There may be some classic cinematic connections to the work of Jimmy Behan. In the epic masterwork of
schmaltz & tears, „Sissi“, the peoples of Hungary are crowning their new king Franz Joseph I on top of a small
artificial mountain errected by piling up samples of earth from their respective provinces. In a scene of similar
emotional impact from Marco Bechis' recent drama „La terra degli uomini rossi“ („Birdwatchers“), meanwhile,
Brazilian Indians demonstrate their deep relationship with the soil by grabbing a handful and eating it – to the
bewilderment of a „21st century“ planter. The message of these rituals is clear: Whether we accept it or not, we
are all inherently rooted in the place we were born, even though the debranching tendency of these times of
sending us from one anonymous place to the next is wiping out the comforting reassurance of these ties. For
Behan, too, there is a place with great emotional resonance, buried in the chinks of his memory: A narrow and
winding track along the river which, in his childhood imagination, would lead him all the way to the end of the
world. „The Echo Garden“, for Behan, marks the musical return to this path in an effort of reconciling the artistic
possibilities and inspirations of the big city with the urgent need of belonging somewhere.
The personal relevance of this theme may explain why the full-length follow-up to Behan's widely applauded
debut „Days are what we live in“, at one time tentatively announced for 2006, is now published with a three year
delay. In fact, it may be a completely different record altogether: Defining a corresponding palette of ideas and
timbres demanded time and attention, as the focus shifted from working on arrangements and thematic
development to exploring the inner life of sounds. Delineating which tools and techniques NOT to use and how to
avoid a regular instrumentation of Guitars, Bass and Drums took on seminal importance. Samples, with their inbuilt
associations and metaphorical allusions, were shed. Instead, „The Echo Garden“ aims at creating a self-referential
microcosm, based upon harmony, intimacy and fluent lines of demarcation between music, colour, spatial sound
effects and a quiet world of organic noises.
Even though there is both a clear narrative development to the album as a whole (its track listing opens with
„Awake“ and closes with „Dusk“) as well as a lot of inward movement to each piece, its gentle gestures and
the absence of any kind of target vector create a sensation of peaceful tranquility and complete calm. One of the
compositions is called „Clock for no time“, and its title effectively describes the agreeable separation of the inner
and outer experience of time so characteristic of those days spent in the intense now of youthful exploration. It is
almost as though, as a spectator, one were weightlessly reclining on the ground along the water, gazing on the
playful dance of dragonflies and birds in the air. On „Pools“, a Piano paints dabbers of cloudy white into the sky's
shimmering blueness, its at first solitary tones coalescing into an elegantly shaped pattern for a striking second,
before gradually disintegrating again. Quasi-canon „Rust“, by contrast, feeds from the graceful tension of two
almost identical melodic lines flowing increasingly out of sync with each other.
Even though Behan is guiding his acoustic needle with the firm hands of a weaver working on a tapestry of
gossamer silk and despite prior claims towards wanting to „get rid of all the music“, the record has nonetheless
turned out a collection of tracks with a mind of their own. Each of them presents a new idea, in turn relying on a
looped cycle of droning bass notes, the slow decay of a warm drone into silence or the juxtaposition of a
continuous melody with a backdrop of far-away field recordings. „Derelict“ even disrupts the harmonious surface
with discreet dissonances, which are, however, softened by embedding them into gripping thematic movement.
As if incorporating the essence of pastoral beauty, the „Echo Garden“ opens up to all senses, revealing its
dazzling complex of sweet sounds, refined tastes, impressionist images and sensual perfumes in small doses of
complementary quality. If his intention was truly to „just leave the good stuff“, the album has succeeded admirably.
From my balcony, I can see into the garden of an elderly couple. Each day, they will tend to their plants, water the
flowers and crawl on their knees to tear out the weeds between the stones that form a path leading from the
garage to the patio on the other end of the green. After the work is done, they will sit down on the patio's bench,
enjoy the pleasures of relaxation after a day of labouring in the summer sun and look at the outcome of their sweat.
„The Echo Garden“ seems to try and capture this moment of bliss, forged by sensations of purpose and devotion.
Like them, Jimmy Behan has quietly cultivated the garden of his melancholia for the past years and distilled its fruit
into an album which grows on listeners quietly yet insistently. The music is the movie here: Listening with your
inner eyes will bring out the full cinematic qualities of this tender trip.
Recently I got the next CD of the so-called laptop electroacoustics, it seems that there is already a whole
generation of such musicians. I imagine thin, motionless figures of young people as an integral part of it, they
stiffen before the laptop display, nearby lies a pair of sound devices (processors, mixers or something else).
Abstract constructions of granulated sound layers come from the acoustic system and cover the surrounding
space. Be it amorphous ambient or electronic pulsations and grinding sound, in any case all is processed by
digital devices and in the result the listener is proposed to examine not harmony and melody, but the
complicated structure of deformed sound filled with elegance and beauty of design.
The Echo Garden is a good example of such music, the best variants of which can be of no doubt heard on
releases of 12k or Room40. Nature, the sun coming through tree branches, grass bushes where one wants to
fall and lie without moving... The whole sound picture is carefully and intelligently sewed together by the
threads of rough, glitch electronics. Maybe for some people the album seems to be just the next replication of
that had been done by 12k and other labels. Of course, it can be close to the truth, Jimmy Behan won't surprise
with anything new in composition the references to creativity of Taylor Deupree and Seaworthy can be heard,
a little bit of con_cetta and Off The Sky, in some places Machinefabriek and Pan American... The list can be
proceeded for along time, though it doesn't have any sense as The Echo Garden is a pleasant for listening,
quite self-sufficient work.
Irish composer Jimmy Behan creates his music by processing electro-acoustic sounds and field-recordings.
Therefore it was no surprise to hear a collection of oozing tonal meditations on this disc. The Echo Garden is
chock full of swirly pianos, droning detuned synths, bells, clicks, scraps and bit-degradation -- all lending to a
hearty slurry of ambient relaxation.
Stand out pieces are "Rust" which features a lazily pulsing wind chime against a deep filtered sting pad with
some sizzles and pops to season, "Across The Rooftops" which plays with the notion of rhythm - threatening
a 3/4 waltz with every measure, and the epic-length "Dusk" which crawls through Behan's disc-spanning
repertoire in its nearly 9 minute length.
It should be noted that Jimmy Behan currently holds an M. Phil in Music and Media Technologies from Trinity
College in Dublin. This serves to solidify that the smart ones always make the "weird" music. That's definitely
not a bad thing at all. The world needs more soothing, and folks like Behan are well equipped to do so.
There is the original, the copy and then there is the copy which becomes frightenly close to the original. If you
wouldn't know better then you may easily think that 'The Echo Garden' is another album by Taylor Deupree.
Acoustic sounds, electronic sounds, field recordings, peaceful music, tranquil. Microambient with the big M.
Things are looped, no doubt thanks to Ableton Live, and played around in a nice gentle way. Music to relax by,
to zip tea by, drink red wine by, or perhaps even to sleep by. I thought it was a pretty good record, but I kept
thinking 'Taylor Deupree did this'. It's a little bit more crowded here than on the average Deupree record, and
that's why he could have chosen another name. But its not. Jimmy Behan is simply someone else. Nice too.....
Behan presents ten micro-detailed sound paintings on The Echo Garden. Eschewing sampling and excluding
from his sound palette guitars, drums, vocals, and synth pads, the Irish sound sculptor uses piano, sine tones,
found sounds, and field recordings to generate intimate evocations of pastoral tranquility. Fragments of early
morning light shine through the trees in Behan's sonic environment, warming the isolated pond that's at the
setting's center. Tiny speckles of processed sounds glimmer throughout the peaceful settings, sometimes
accompanied by a more “natural” sound (such as an electric piano in “Leaving Here”) or a field recording
(outdoor sounds in “Across the Rooftops”). While the bell tones in “Rust” invite a gamelan characterization and
a central melancholy melody lends “Clock for No Time” a song-like structure, the album's material generally resists
genre or stylistic labeling but rather inhabits an abstract space midway between electronic and acoustic sounds,
and sound design and compositional form. There's a focus on the detail of a given sound as well as on how the
individual elements cohere into a larger whole. Behan's clearly more focused on treating the material as
explorations of texture and sound that invite associations without dictating them; interestingly, though, the
programmatic dimension established via track titling—a trajectory that finds the hypothetical hiker visiting the site in
early morning, communing with it, and eventually departing from it as evening approaches—indicates that the
composer isn't interested in wholly severing the ties to referentiality.
THE SILENT BALLET
If I had reviewed The Echo Garden by Jimmy Behan eight to ten years ago, I'd have probably applauded it as
a great record - a welcome entry into the ever-growing, newfound world of micro ambient music. However,
as we near the end of this decade and consider the crushing state of claustrophobia currently plaguing this
over-populated genre, it's becoming clear that a bold new approach is in desperate need. And while admitting
that Behan's work on this record is quite beautiful and well constructed, it is hard to avoid catching an unwanted
dose of the 'heard this before' syndrome. The Echo Garden will likely fall in or out of favor depending on which
side of the fence the listener is on: they will either be comfortable with a beautiful, yet derivative piece of work,
or they will be tired of the same old, same old, preferring instead to wait for a release more capable of injecting
lifeblood into this extremely over-crowded, over-imitated genre.
All of this is not to say that The Echo Garden is a bad release. It isn't. It's meticulously crafted, well produced
and loaded with textured micro sonic activity containing all the elements so endemic to micro sound: warm tones,
high-pitched sound fragments, field recordings, tiny fragile melodies and lots of space for all of this to float
around in. Ironically, this is also what makes this release unremarkable - in short: it is what we've come to
expect from artists exploring this genre. One doesn't get the sense that the artist took any chances here, or
pushed the work to new limits, which is what this genre is crucially in need of. There is also one other troubling
fact about this release: it sounds a lot like a Taylor Deupree record, at least stylistically. While no one should
fault Mr. Behan for finding great source of inspiration from this pioneer, we must also remember that this
category of music does not need another Taylor Deupree, but rather an artist who will source this level of
inspiration into something different, if not altogether entirely new.
With this considerable criticism aside, there is ample room to find many things to like about this release and it's
why rating this release too low is a bit difficult. Put simply, the music is enjoyable. It is almost impossible to
dislike and there is nothing abrasive, nor unsettling about it - a well-suited musical companion to any
environment conducive to quietude, contemplation or meditation. Less discriminating fans of this genre will
find pleasure in tracks like "Awake" or the slow, gentle lullaby of "Pools". The finest, most innovative track on
the record (certainly an area in which Jimmy Behan should place more focus) is the ninth track, "Derelict".
Here, he creates a dense, brooding atmosphere with what sounds like a detuned piano, moving in and out
of melody with great aplomb. More akin to the sonic explorations of the late John Cage, or Morton Feldman,
it's the most exploratory track on this record. The final track, "Dusk", is an effective way to draw the curtain,
but it is also the most obvious when it comes to a strong Deupree-based influence. Many readers will view
the Deupree comparison as an unfair jab and to be sure, there's nothing wrong with channeling one's
influences - but there is a line which separates influence from replication. This is a line I think Jimmy Behan
should work harder to blur.
In summation, The Echo Garden is a noteworthy release when regarding the aesthetics of the micro sound
genre, but not that of originality. Though it isn't time to write off the talent of Jimmy Behan or any of his
contemporaries, it is time to remind those working within the canopy of this micro sound/ambient realm to
push further, dig deeper, re-think and come up with something markedly different from what we've been
delivered for nearly ten years now.
Più evidente invece il lavorio di processing in "The Echo Garden", secondo album in carriera per l'irlandese Jimmy
Behan (studi di composizione con Roger Doyle e parallela attività nel duo Glissen con Kate McKeon). Polveri
sottili effondono dalle dieci composizioni, sbrindellate tessiture di microcellule melodiche ridotte a poco più di
granuli spazzati via dal vento, brillii immateriali, condense che evaporano nel volgere di un battito di ciglia, con
la stessa pacata riflessività di un Fennesz o un Deupree. (7/8)
Jimmy Behan will never play Top Of The Pops. In fact Behan creates music that is left of what the mainstream
would already consider very left indeed that it defies a neat little category that makes reviewing records much
easier. The music on The Echo Garden, his second long player, is minimal electronic music that the man on
the street may normally encounter as part of an art installation or perhaps a Bill Viola video. Ironically much of
the building blocks of the sounds he creates seem scavenged from the street - such as stones rolling on a
pavement, a buzzing fly or change jingling in a pocket. Tiny pieces of found sounds float about in the texture
of the music like motes in a shaft of sunlight and they are uplifting and optimistic in their way.
Trying to describe the music is much like trying to describe art as it can’t but relate to personal feelings,
unchained as it is from traditional melodies and beats. In this way is a step away from the warm and enjoyable
first album Days Are What We Live In. You won’t find any hooks here, or whistlable melodies for that matter.
Nor is there any guest singers. A change in tack is welcome for any musician in the name of progress – but
Behan’s listeners must change their approach to this album too. It’s best appreciated listened to start to finish
- not picking tracks, in as much ambient silence as you can find (though the odd noise from the street or chirp
of nature works quite well with the music here). Good speakers are a must and a task that allows the mind to
wander and drift is something you’d want to be doing at the same time. Alphabetising your CD collection, or
perhaps editing some photo albums of old would be a good place to start.
Perhaps by its very nature it becomes an album you’re not sure what to do with. The immaculately constructed
underlying music is often brought at odds with some ever so slightly jarring notes and noises at times. This
does encourage the listener to actually think about the music and the layers within and it is easy to get lost in
it – but also hard to relax completely (hence the suggestion of some tasks to accompany a listening).
Detailed, elegantly crafted, and brave it is. It’s also somewhat challenging listening and over the course of
the whole album the tracks can float away from the listener, in the way of a jazz solo that doesn’t fall back
into the song it began with, never giving you the melody pay-off or soft landing. It’s a collection of music no
doubt perfect for something in your life. Figuring that out is the next step.
Audiobulb Is an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists.
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