Monty Adkins

Monty Adkins is a sound artist based in the North of England. His work draws together elements from ambient, minimal electronica, modern classical and experimental electronic music. This is his fourth album for Audiobulb.


Borderlands is an extended meditation for multi-tracked cellos and was commissioned for an immersive installation by IOU Theatre. Borderlands was recorded by cellist William Mace whose sensuous tone gives the album a resonant warmth. The piece is based on a text by Deborah Templeton that explored liminal states of consciousness.

Borderlands encourages an intense and immersive ambient listening experience that extends the perception of time. The single 37:45 minute track gradually moves from rich, low overlapping melodic lines to a fragile ethereal extended line in the highest range of the cello.

The piece comprises of six interludes and six extended panels, each comprising twenty-eight short melodic fragments. Each panel uses the same fragments to form new melodies and harmonies. The result is a beautiful modern classical work that continues Audiobulb’s quest to release exquisite exploratory music.

AB058 | January 2015



  1. Igloo Mag

    In the 37.45 minutes of its winding, wending length, Monty Adkins’ Borderlands, his fourth release with Audiobulb, does everything it can to extend the listening, to immerse the listener through its composed and slowly dilating and compressing cello, performed by William Mace. From its earliest moments, the melodic lines expand and warmly burr at their edges, overlapping with other lines that explore the higher range of the cello, pushing us to imagine its movement into the treble clef, the thumb tracking and shifting.

    In listening, you learn to slow and distend your ear, of what you listen to—the melodic line and its emergence and careful, deliberate transformation,—which seems simultaneously to be running at an impossible pace and, yet, impossibly slowly. It is an organic time, the musical language of a bend in the river, of a mountainside and the way that mist drifts noiselessly above and over it.

    Along its course, there are tributaries of minor string whose attack and decay drifts equally slowly, albeit at a different tempo, quavering and drawing close to the Cello’s line, before drifting away from it. I was reminded of the different, albeit complementary tempos and rhythms of nature. A mountain that counts time in geological ages, a river that has always run, quickly or slow, though with different water, and the seasonal growth and decay of trees and plants.

    Magisterial, organic, haunting. This sustained, carefully textured and complex melody is, simply and rapturously, enchanting. After 37-minutes had run, I had no idea how long I had been sitting in that place, whether it had been moments or hours, whether I had aged or become younger. It didn’t particularly seem to matter.

  2. Ambient Review

    After “Fragile.Flicker.Fragment” (2011), Four Shibusa” (2012) and Rift Patterns” (2014) (all of which I heartily recommend listening), Borderlands” is Monty Adkins‘ fourth consecutive album on the Audiobulb label.
    Before that, there were three earlier releases  – on Crónica, Radio France and Empreïntes Digitales  (as Mathew Adkins on the latter). And from his website discography we learn that another digital release is to be released in March this year!

    Quite an impressive catalogue that is, especially given the exceptional quality of all these recordings. Each has its own style, instrumentation and context and yet all have the distinctive ‘Monty Adkins sound’ – music “characterized by slowly shifting organic instrumental and concrete soundscapes”. An unparallelled match between electronic and acoustic sounds, between the ‘natural’ and the ‘synthetic’.

    Borderlands” presents a single 37 minute piece, commisioned for Totum One“: a 360° audio visual laboratory installation, “exploring virtual worlds using 3D headsets and new ways of hearing sounds.”  The installation is based on a text by Deborah Templeton “that explored liminal states of consciousness”, but this text is not present in this instrumental recording.

    The sound that visitors experienced at the installation will probably have been quite different from what you hear here, because  visitors had “tablet computers so that they could send a graphical satellite on a journey between 3-D “planets”, each of which emitted a soundscape – for example, the sound of streams and running water.”
    These added sounds and effects are not included in the basic recording presented on this album.

    While the music of Borderlands” was created to embark on a sonic space trip, the music has absolutely nothing to do with the usual kind of space music associated! The heart of the piece is the sensuous multitracked cello playing by William Mace, subtly supported by unobtrusive electronic details and accents that slowly move (somewhat) to the foreground while the piece evolves.

    The composition ‘comprises of six interludes and six extended panels, each comprising twenty-eight short melodic fragments. Each panel uses the same fragments to form new melodies and harmonies.” – but for the listener it feels – and can be enjoyed – as one single uninterrupted piece.

    A piece in which every single detail has its place, a piece that conveys that everything is as it should be. A very, very comforting piece.

  3. Textura

    Monty Adkins' fourth album for Audiobulb signifies a bit of a departure for the English sound artist. While it retains firm ties to the ambient, electronica, modern classical, and experimental electronic music genres from which his previous work has drawn, it differs in being a single-track meditation of thirty-eight-minute duration. Based on a text by Deborah Templeton that focuses on liminal states of consciousness, Borderlands is primarily modern classical in style and sounds acoustically pure and free of electronics.

    However, while the piece appears to be played by a cello section, it's performed by a single musician, cellist William Mace, whose playing has been multi-tracked for the recording. And while on the one hand it plays as a single, continuous piece of orchestral character, technically speaking Borderlands consists of six interludes and six extended panels, each comprising twenty-eight short melodic fragments and each using the same fragments to form new melodies and harmonies. It's likely, however, that the work's formal design will go unnoticed by the greater number of listeners, for the simple reason that their attention will instead be drawn to the luscious sound of Mace's playing and his sympathetic rendering of Adkins' material.

    In general, the tempo is slow and stately and the mood peaceful and plaintive, qualities that in turn bolster the recording's immersive potential. Paradoxically, a sense of stasis and time-suspension is achieved by Adkins' meditative music despite the facticity of temporal extension and the myriad melodic events that transpire during the music's unfolding. In one more example of aural sleight-of-hand, the overlapping of high and low pitches generates the impression of a string section containing violins, violas, and cellos as opposed to a cello section only. There are moments of great beauty here, such as when a solo cello line soars gently above a shimmering swell below.

    The impact of Adkins' piece is aided greatly by Mace's sensuous performance, which in certain moments gives the piece an affecting emotional quality reminiscent of John Tavener's The Protecting Veil, even if the pieces are much different on formal compositional grounds. That said, it's interesting that the programme notes Tavener provided for his composition could just as easily apply to Borderlands: The Protecting Veil “is an attempt to make a lyrical ikon in sound, rather than in wood, and using the music of the cellist to paint rather than a brush. The music is highly stylized, geometrically formed, and meditative in character.
  4. Chain D.L.K.

    This new work from Monty Adkins is 'an extended meditation for multi-tracked cellos' that means that is the result of the juxtaposition of various lines of cello that develops a piece 'based on a text by Deborah Templeton that explored liminal states of consciousness'. The true quality of this piece is the full realization of the premise of his linear notes as it's a well planned and realized exploration of the spectral quality of an instrument, the cello, seldom used in an unexpected way.

    This track starts with a quiet drone doubled by a cello whose sustained tones shifts from one channel to another. While the first part is on the lowest part of the range, the second is on a higher range and starts to develop a melodic line, meditative and quiet. The third is a slowly modulating drone exploring the resonances of the instrument while the fourth is based on a high range and sounds almost void as the absence of the lower frequencies implies a quieter soundscape that fully develops in the fifth part. The final part of this piece is almost static and based on the highest pitch of the cello and a low frequency drones.

    This piece is, undoubtedly, a demanding listening as it's something closer to contemporary music than the average of today's releases but it's full of truly enjoying music. Recommended.

  5. Brain Storm Improv

    The fourth release by englishman monty adkins, consists of a single, 38-minute marriage of droning electronics and moody cello (performed by the talented william mace). Originally written for an installation commissioned by IOU theatre, and dedicated to the memory of his uncle, Borderlands sweeps over you much like the desolate landscapes of iceland captured by artists such as Olafur Arnalds and Hildur Guðnadóttir.

    This release focuses less on the experimental electronics that the audiobulb label is known for and more on the growing diversity of it's expanding roster of sound artists - now evolving into the modern classical realm that is currently gaining recognition due to composers such as Max Richter.  

    Borderlands will be available through the audiobulb website in both 16/24-bit formats as well as your favorite digital shops such as Bleep, Amazon and iTunes.

  6. 5 against 4

    Monty Adkins‘ latest offering, released a couple of weeks ago, is a 37-minute drone piece for cello and electronics titled Borderlands. While not as immersive as some of his recent work (although that may be due to home listening rather than in a concert space), it’s no less refined; in the last few years Adkins, more than most, has brought real elegance to electronic music, a quality all too absent from most contemporary ambient. A digital only release, it’s available in both 16- and 24-bit editions. 

  7. Music Won't Save You

    Quasi trentotto minuti di vibrazioni delle corde del violoncello sotto l’archetto di William Mace rappresentano il punto di partenza e il contenuto essenziale dell’ultima creazione del sound artist inglese Monty Adkins, commissionatagli per un’installazione multimediale curata dallo IOU Theatre.

    In bilico tra neoclassicismo e manipolazione elettronica, “Borderlands” è appunto un lungo viaggio sonoro lungo confini espressivi ormai sempre più labili. L’elemento saliente del lavoro, che consiste in una sequenza di sei pièce e altrettanti interludi, è l’alternanza tra persistenze e frammenti armonici (ne vengono presentati ben ventisei), plasmata in una materia sonora viva e in progressiva evoluzione.

    Dai vapori ipnotici della prima parte alle melodie puntiformi sempre più spoglie da sovrastrutture della sua parte finale, quella di “Borderlands” è un’esperienza immersiva, che trascende gli schemi del virtuosismo neoclassico per dischiudere un nuovo orizzonte, nel quale un meditativo paesaggismo ambientale è costruito quasi integralmente sulle potenzialità di uno strumento acustico, senza espungerne e anzi esaltandone gli essenziali spunti armonici. 

  8. Ondarock

    Il nuovo progetto del sound artist britannico Monty Adkins, successivo a lavori che seguono le orme di Morton Feldman come “Five Panels” (2009) e “Four Shibusa” (2012), è una colonna sonora per un’installazione interattiva commissionatagli dallo sperimentale IOU Theatre di Halifax. Ne risulta “Borderlands”, un brano di 37 minuti per ambience digitale e cello polifonico riprocessato, incluso poi nell’eponimo album su Audiobulb.

    Con la sua atmosfera d’inerte cordoglio, è un lungo adagio di sospiri sfumati in pause rarefatte, fatto d’idee perfettamente tonali e neoclassiche, che anziché rifarsi alla letteratura cellistica romantica indietreggiano quasi al gregoriano. A tratti suona vicino alle fredde colonne sonore di Johann Johannsson e Hildur Gudnadottir, ma senza le armonie stratificate del primo né la ricercata improvvisazione della seconda. Sono e rimangono pure fluttuazioni atmosferiche.

    Composto di sei panelli formati a loro volta da ventotto figurine melodiche, e sei interludi: Adkins fa sentire appena la sua presenza con vaghi rimbombi e vagiti elettronici che sono illusori tentativi di portare l’opera in una dimensione superiore. Protagonista assoluto rimane il violoncello di William Mace, e l’opera è in effetti un raffinato recital strumentale più che una pièce di ricerca. Un adagio del Morricone di “C’era una volta in America” che non inizia mai la sua melodia mozzafiato e preferisce cercare lungamente, e cupamente, la trascendenza.

    Ispirato da un testo di Deborah Templeton sugli stati liminali di coscienza.

  9. The New Noise

    Il quarantenne Monty Adkins è sia compositore, sia sound artist, ed è anche professore di “Experimental Electronic Music” presso l’Università di Huddersfield, che si trova tra Leeds e Manchester. I suoi lavori combinano la conoscenza della musica concreta agli strumenti classici, come accade in “Borderlands”, un unico pezzo di trentaquattro minuti, ottenuto partendo da una serie di frammenti di violoncello, suonati da tale William Mace e ricombinati/sovrapposti dal professore per far parte di una sorta d’installazione, nella quale il pubblico viene/veniva chiuso in una specie di igloo bianchissimo, fornito di cuffie con le quali immergersi nell’ascolto (della musica e anche di uno spoken word, assente nella pubblicazione Audiobulb di cui sto scrivendo). Come spesso accade in questi casi, proprio d’immersione è necessario parlare: il gusto di Adkins nel ricomporre gli elementi fornitigli da Mace sembra sopraffino e la sensazione è quella di ascoltare ambient ottenuta coi mezzi della tradizione, non fosse per la presenza di basse frequenze troppo innaturali (a regalar una fisicità e una profondità all’insieme) e di suoni più alti e in apparenza sintetici che spingono su territori più irreali. Meglio ribadirlo, comunque: è tutto così coerente che uno lascia quasi subito perdere l’analisi per godersi meglio la traccia. D’altro canto, non è con Adkins che si scoprono certe potenzialità de violoncello e questo Borderlands non è una tappa fondamentale, però rientra nella rosa di dischi che stuzzicano e che ci si può comprare, non certo tra quelli da scartare senza rimpianto.

  10. Rockerilla

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