Monty Adkins | fragile.flicker.fragment

 Cat: AB035
 Time: April 2011
 Media: CD & Digital Download

 Info:  fragile.flicker.fragment is a deeply moving album. 
 The fruit of an expert musician who has both a 
 technical and intuitive grasp on sound design and 
 composition. Every frequency is beautifully catered for 
 in these tracks of shimmering acousmatic beauty and 
 deeply resonating foundations. Each layer occupying 
 its own place whilst building the overall acoustic 

 Artist site:

 PDF Press Release: Download

 01. memory box 
 02. etched in air
 03. remnant 
 04. suspended edges 
 05. first snow 
 06. ode
 07. forensic embers
 08. torn mosaic
 09. memory etching 
VIDEO | remnant


QUESTIONS | Monty Adkins

 Who are you?
 Monty Adkins

 Why do you write music?
The reasons have changed over the years. When I was
 young I was involved in a huge variety of music both 
 playing and singing. As a chorister I literally had to sing 
 for my supper. What I remember most about these early 
 experiences was the way the music interacted with 
 these huge cavernous buildings. I think this is a quality 
 that is still there in my music - the way intimate sounds 
 can develop into these huge sound textures that imply a 
 massive space. You can hear this particularly on Ode 
 on the new album. My earliest attempts to write music 
 were really to make sound for these huge spaces - I 
 loved the physical sensation of it. 

 As I got more and more into electronics making music 
 became more and more a means for self-expression. 
 Although I am interested in experimental sound I never 
 start off from this point consciously. To me my music 
 is a reflection of my humanity, the people around me 
 and the friends who play on and record samples for
 albums. The tracks that eventually emerge are a
 result of my thoughts, emotions and relationships at 
 that time.

 How do you describe your music?
 A simple melody deconstructed, processed and 
 processed and then reassembled. In a way it's a little
 like the 'Cage' paintings of Gerhard Richter where he 
 starts with very simple blocks of colour - he then 
 adds layer on layer of paint often obscuring most of 
 the previous layer but not all of it to create these 
 beautiful abstract works. From a sonic point of view
 it draws on a variety of influences from ambient, 
 oceanic glitch, microsound and experimental 
 electronic music. 

 What does this album mean to you?
 For a long time I was more interested in 'sound' rather 
 than the traditional elements of music like harmony and
 melody. fragile.flicker.fragment is a really important 
 album for me and follows on from my previous one, 
 Five Panels where I started to reconcile abstract 
 electronic sound material and melody. This is something
 I really wanted to explore in this album. It's also an 
 important album for me as many of the tracks are 
 based on paintings by Pip Dickens and marks the 
 start of a really interesting collaboration with her.

 Can you elaborate on your creative 
 I always start with a clear concept of what I'm doing. I
 record some initial material and then intuitively develop it
 in a variety of ways often using small patches in Max/
 MSP and Reaktor that I've slowly developed and 
 collected. I then often live with the sounds for a while, 
 absorb myself in them to see what other thoughts, 
 connections or ideas may develop. Often the process 
 of mixing the final track happens quite quickly.

 What are your future plans?
 I'm currently working on a new album for release in 
 November 2011 to coincide with a big new exhibition 
 of paintings by Pip Dickens. The album will follow on 
 from fragile.flicker. fragment in its exploration of 
 instruments and electronics. The live show will 
 include me on electronics and the fantastic Canadian 
 clarinettist Heather Roche.

VIDEO | suspended edges

REVIEWS | fragile.flicker.fragment

 After reading music at Cambridge University, specializing in French medieval and Italian Renaissance music, Monty 
 Adkins became interested in electronic and electro-acoustic music and went on to become a member of the 
 Birmingham Electro-acoustic Sound Theatre, a formation attached to the music department at the University of 
 Birmingham. This led him to work on very diverse projects, from sound installations and scoring for a contemporary
 dance piece to curating a project for INA-GRM to celebrate the work of Pierre Schaefer, the man widely regarded 
 as the father of musique concrète.

 Adkins’s last record, Five Panels, recorded with bass guitarist Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, was inspired by the
 paintings of Mark Rothko. Equally, his latest opus finds its source in the work of London-based painter Pip Dickens 
 and that of Brass Art, a collective of artists based in Manchester (Chara Lewis), Huddersfield (Kristin Mojsiewicz)
 and Glasgow (Anneke Pettican). While Adkins plays a range of instruments here (clarinet, electric guitar, 
 accordion and organ), and also provide vocal inputs, the album features contributions from Lisa Colton (viol) and 
 Tremblay (music box). These acoustic sources are then processed into wonderfully fluid ambient pieces which 
 often feel extremely dreamy.

 Memory Box opens this album with delicate music box motifs which appear to progressively be echoed in much 
 subdued form in the backdrop, with additional field recordings dropped in to add glitches and texture. This is also 
 how Adkins choses to close the album, but, if anything, the mood is even more subdued and ethereal on Memory 
 Etching, with the music box notes becoming as light and clear as raindrops. In between, Adkins creates a 
 splendid series of varied soundscapes which develop into sumptuous pieces, ranging from the lush and vaporous
 Etched In Air or Remnant, which both sound like psychedelic electronic endeavours as heard through a thick 
 hallucinogenic haze, slowed down to a point of near immobility. While the sound sources are virtually unidentifiable
 in these two pieces, Suspended Edges reveals its core component, an organ, from the start and continues to build
 on its warm and rounded sounds. Elsewhere, the sound sources are even more obvious. The music box makes 
 another appearance on First Snow, but here, the sounds are treated and looped into tight sequences and pressed
 into a much more confined space, scintillating brightly, albeit somewhat briefly. An accordion gently swells on the 
 spiralling Ode, and viol on the moody Torn Mosaic, Lisa Colton providing a series of suitably mournful motifs which 
 Adkins fragments or expands, adding occasional earthy found sounds.

 All throughout, Monty Adkins create extremely delicate miniature structures which, as the album title indicates, 
 appear to flicker constantly, like tiny beacons of light in the night, their refined forms developing in the most fluid 
 fashion. Adkins processes his sound sources with great care, placing them as to get the best out of every single 
 one of them.


 Composer Monty Adkins was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, United Kingdom, where he read music, 
 specializing in French Medieval and Italian Renaissance music. After being introduced to the electronic genre, he 
 later would become a member of the Birmingham electroacoustic sound theatre.

 Fragile.Flicker.Fragment. rather accurately describes the content of this offering. It’s a dainty trinket box, ever so 
 fragile, full of mysterious blends and fragments of organic surfaces that almost flicker. There’s integration of subtle
 field recordings, which add a realistic undercurrent alongside its dreamy aspect.

 The whole album pretty much follows a similar theme throughout with perhaps one or two more diverse excursions 
 further in. “Memory Box” being exactly typical. Filled with gentle chimes, light in approach, but with a penetrating 
 depth of mystery and a pull towards the tracks increasing presence. Embraced by intermittent rustle, and dressed 
 in that mysterious presence created by distinct wind chimes that chatter throughout. Metallic depth would be a 
 common theme on this record and “Etched in Air” is no exception. Born out of its own creative path, it vibrates 
 lovingly; a testament to the fresh approach of this release. Selectively searching with a display of moving 
 imagery, vast, vibrant and dilated.

 “Remnant” shows an underlying strength; it’s another watery mission that presents itself in a quiet before the storm
 sense, with deep penetrating bass lines that colour the track while enabling the higher pitches to illuminate quite 
 successfully over its deeper, more expanding layers as it progresses. Plenty of overtones that compliment, and 
 there’s an almost underwater feel midway, but it doesn’t stop there. With yet more watery timbres is “Suspended 
 Edges,” a very brief experiment clocking in at just a minute, with unrestricted drive with plenty of mythological 
 character. “First Snow” feels like a reflection of “Memory Box” with yet more extravagant chime offset against 
 computerized bleeps.

 “Ode” is a refreshing listen in that different qualities take hold here for the first time, generated by gypsy accordion
 styled sounds that introduce the excursion, governing throughout and successfully introducing the contrast the 
 album needs at this point, with its wonderful dense fabric.

 There’s a deep wave of bass that gives nothing away here – where “Forensic Embers” might lead is unclear, but
 its tone reaches deep to the intensity of existence – a regulated movement of little distraction. 

 Overall Fragile.Flicker.Fragment. is an affectionate tuneful application of instrumentation that gives way to plural 
 watery textures of organic sound construction and mythological extract resulting in a calming electronic spectrum.

 Though it might not be readily apparent from the package design for Monty Adkins' fragile.flicker.fragment, the 
 recording's nine settings were developed alongside the visual artwork of Pip Dickens and the Brass Art collective. 
 It's not an insignificant detail as Adkins material is extremely vivid and visually suggestive, one of those electro-
 acoustic cases wherein imagery forms almost instantly in response to the sounds presented. More precisely, 
 Adkins doesn't take his inspiration from visual artists but has approached the music's production in such a way 
 that he's taken the techniques used by artists working within the digital glitch art field and applied them to 
 experimental electronic music production methodology with the aid of software expressly created for that 
 purpose. Noting glitch theorist Iman Moradi's identification of four characteristics associated with the visual field 
 in question (fragmentation, repetition, linearity, and complexity), Adkins adopts such techniques in the creation of 
 his own electronic music pieces. Be that as it may, fragile.flicker.fragment doesn't always sound radically unlike 
 glitch-laden electronic music as it's come to be known; familiar textural sounds of ripples, static, and smears 
 occasionally pepper the tracks, a fact that helps position Adkins' album comfortably within the genre itself. During 
 “Remnant,” for example, tones push through rippling masses of distressed electronic noises in a way that won't 
 be unfamiliar to electronic music devotees.

 Not that there's anything objectionable about that, mind you. Adkins' patiently unfolding pieces are appealing no 
 matter how much they may or may not align themselves with others in the genre. Generally speaking, they could 
 be described as ambient electronic soundscapes that Adkins (along with two well-chosen guests, Pierre 
 Alexandre Tremblay on music box and Lisa Colton on viol) enhances with the natural sounds of clarinet, electric 
 guitar,accordion, and organ. The material is hardly thrown together, either, as Adkins brings a formidable 
 background to the project: he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge; formally studied acousmatic music; and 
 his 2009 Five Panels album (featuring Adkins on e-guitar and organ and Tremblay on bass) was nominated for a 
 2010 Qwartz Award.

 Electro-acoustic meditations emphasizing the integration of music box playing and electronics, the opening and 
 closing pieces, “Memory Box” and “Memory Etching,” serve as framing pieces for the album. After the music box 
 interlude “First Snow,” Adkins breaks out of the album's largely restrained mode during “Ode,” which begins as a 
 mournful setting featuring accordion smears that, in its more conventional melodic moments, calls to mind Astor 
 Piazzolla's bandoneon playing, before swelling dramatically. “Forensic Embers” crests with a Ligeti-esque flourish
 at its tail end, after which Colton's viol occupies the forefront of “Torn Mosaic,” though her string playing is but 
 one sound of many, as shuddering electronics and textural noise are prominent too. The association with early 
 music that the viol brings with it makes for an ear-catching juxtaposition with electronic elements that obviously 
 sound modern next to it. As should be obvious by now, Adkins wisely shifts the focus from one piece to the next 
 on this commendable outing, which helps keep the listener engaged throughout.

 UK-based electronic producer Monty Adkins primarily creates slow-shifting ambient soundscapes that 
 incorporate organic instrumental textures, and this latest album ‘Fragile.Flicker.Fragment’ follows on from his 2009
 collection ‘Five Panels’, which received a nomination in last year’s Qwartz Awards. In this case, the nine 
 expansive beatless tracks collected here see Adkins drawing inspiration from a series of paintings by visual 
 collaborator Pip Dickens, and indeed there’s certainly a highly visual / cinematic quality to the music here, as well 
 as an exquisite level of attention to detail regarding overall sound design. Opening track ‘Memory Box’ introduces 
 the dreamily blurred aesthetic that colours much of this album as glistening, icicle-like melodic tones glimmer against 
 a swirling backdrop of pitch-shifted drones, the sense of tentative wonder recalling SubtractiveLAD’s ambient 
 explorations even as moodier bass tones and fluttering glitchy textures begin to creep into the undergrowth. 

 By comparison, ‘Etched In Air’ sees a droning backdrop of vocal harmonics stretching off into the horizon as 
 crackling broken electronic detritus and more ominous bass undertones slowly begin to gather pace against the 
 more wide-eyed atmospheres, in what’s easily one of the darker tracks to be found here, before ‘Suspended 
 Edges’ takes things down into deep, subaquatic atmospheres, the occasional pulse of what sounds like air 
 bubbles fluttering against a vast wall of refracting synth drones. ‘Ode’ meanwhile sees the emergence of 
 relatively recognisable instrumental performances as rich, warm accordion tones glimmer and build against a 
 widescreen swell of melodic drones and buzzing electronics, in a moment that pretty much begs for its own 
 cinematic accompaniment. Gorgeously enveloping and meticulously crafted stuff that’s well worth investigating. 

 Although around since 1994, I never heard of Monty Adkins, whose previous album ‘Five Panels’ was nominated 
 ‘album of the year’ by Qwartz Awards and then licensed to some car company (how do you pull that off, I 
 wondered). Adkins has worked in a number of genres, but in recent years went more and more towards the 
 minimal and introspective kind of music. The title sums up the music quite well, I think. Its fragile music that flickers 
 away and in which fragments are used to create a fine whole unity of a composition. This is ambient music of a 
 modern nature. Open, spacious, computerized, but based on acoustic sources. The opening ‘Memory Box’ deals 
 with the sound of music box and in other pieces we hear guitars or violins (merely guessing actually). Sometimes 
 a piece doesn’t give anything away of the original source material and it seems to exist in a mere digital 
 environment. Its hardly music that we haven’t heard before, mainly on the 12K label – to mention one very obvious 
 point of reference. That said, what is original anyway, and should we care? Perhaps we shouldn’t and just go by 
 the music. Adkins does a great job at what he does and perhaps that’s all that should matter. Nine fine pieces of 
 abstract ambient music. Nine pieces of computerized warmth. That’s all that matters. Maybe Adkins should 
 consider to make it all a bit more of his own though. His skills seem to be up for it. (FdW). 

When Professor Monty Adkins is not teaching music students at England’s  University of Huddersfield, he is 
researching and recording sounds in  many different formats. He describes his latest release, 2011's Fragile.
Flicker.Fragment  (Audiobulb), as “Slow shifting organic instrumental and concrete  soundscapes.” He is part 
of a fascinating group of musical pioneers in  electroacoustic music.

The term “electroacoustic music” is somewhat broad as it covers a wide range of sound experimentation. Some of the forms include musique concrete, computer music, tape music — basically electronic music of all sorts. It is no surprise that he is recording for Audiobulb, who are dedicated to “exploratory electronic music.”

Although Adkins has released a number of solo recordings and has appeared on quite a few compilations, Fragile.Flicker.Fragment is his first effort for the label.
In his official biography Adkins explains the various strands of the movement he has explored over the years. For the purposes of this review, the following quote is particularly illuminating: “Recently the work has become increasingly minimal and introspective. This work focuses on encouraging a deeper immersive listening experience. Working with a reduced sonic palette, the new works draw together elements from ambient, minimal electronica, acousmatic and experimental electronic music.”

The emphasis on the intellectual side of things is understandable for a professor, but I think it also tends to alienate the “average” listener such as myself. It is one thing to understand the conceptual framework of these tracks, but in the end one does not need to be a musicologist to enjoy this recording. I knew next to nothing about Professor Adkins before listening to Fragile.Flicker.Fragment, and it did not matter in the least. For the most part, the nine tracks fall into the ambient minimalism category, with some notable exceptions.

The disc opens up with “Memory Box,” a very inviting piece utilizing what sounds like “tubular bells“ to me. I actually have no idea as to what specific instruments were used on the album or whether it was c reated entirely electronically, so I can only describe what I hear. The moods created by Adkins are what count, and they are varied, and often quite beautiful. “Remnant” evokes an air of mystery, where “Ode” is probably the most raucous track.

The most experimental piece is quite appropriately titled “Torn Mosaic.” This is by far the longest track on the disc, clocking in a 11:30. Adkins pulls out all the stops here, beginning with some very “futuristic” tones, underscored by a nice, very ambient bed of sound. Following this portion, we hear the intriguing tones of an of instrument that sounds very much like a harmonium. The ending is a long, low drone, sprinkled with intermittent flourishes. I must say that I found “Torn Mosaic” to be a very impressive sound-sculpture.

The ninth and final track, “Memory Etching,” is also quite experimental in nature, although not quite as long or involved as “Torn Mosaic.” As with all of the Audiobulb releases, detailed information is available on their website, as well as ordering options. Monty Adkins’ second Audiobulb recording, titled Four Shibusa, is set for release in April, and is one I am highly anticipating.
 Anyone familiar with Ennio Morricone’s The Thing (1982) score will know you can squeeze a lot of tension out of a
 single note. OK, so the film’s scenes of Kurt Russell going stir crazy/stop-motion head spiders brought plenty of 
 menace on their own, but there’s no denying the film became slightly icier thanks to Morricone’s bleak monotone 

 Monty Adkins must’ve rented The Thing at a very inappropriate age, because his sound—“slow shifting organic, 
 instrumental and concrete soundscapes”—mirrors the Antarctic horror film so accurately you can almost hear 
 penguins trying to flee from it. Adkins spent his degree years taking single noises and converting them into 
 complex drone operas, resulting in his work being farmed out and given lots of art spots in France. After a short 
 break playing e-guitar in Paris, Adkins has gone back to his favourite whiteouts for sophomore album fragile.flicker.
 fragment, where single notes enjoy extraordinary production, like Ennio Morricone striking a power chord and then
 running outside to catch the fade.

 Unusually for an ambient record, Adkins has decided to telegraph his album with a decade, and as soon as 
 “Forensic Embers” begins it’s obvious we’re deep in the ’80s. The mix of drone, pads and slow laser scanners
 could easily be a Knight Rider cue, and by the time the synthetic rain effects come in you’ll want to cry “Vangelis 
 impersonator!” But Adkins lets his soundscapes glow and boil over, going into places TV pop culture avoids. All 
 that time in French art galleries has altered his vision, allowing him to play with the track’s titular darkness in a way
  that would make the titular pathologists uncomfortable. And although the detail on “Forensic Embers” might not be 
 original enough to get a murder conviction reversed, it’s certainly a good enough alternative to the retro copycats 
 of the ’80s, who only want to wipe out crime and aliens and keep David Hasselhoff alive.
 Audiobulb Is an exploratory music label designed to support the work of innovative artists. 

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