GOLDERS GREEN | Suite n°2 in Drone Major (op.3)

BLWBCK021 – Release date : Sept 12th, 2012
Tape {55 c.} grey cassette C45 + insert
including the digital edition

Suite n°2 in drone major (op.3) is not the kind of album that you can get into from the first listen. If possible, close your eyes and lay down comfortably. This second album of Byron Christodoulou (alias Vincent Kühner), co-founder & member of FELT Collective & Restoring Sounds, is an ode to field recordings where melodies occur from layers of white noise, creating a distance between you and the rest of the world. As the connoted title implies, this album is a deep & experimental piece of music, however, from the dissected high noises of the overture, to the distant coolness of V.A.G.U.E, Byron hasn’t hesitated to move away from the drone aesthetics. Ambient, noise, lo-fi, experimental, or whatever you label it, “Suite n°2 in drone major (op.3)” is like a blurred souvenir of deleted scenes and forgotten dreams.

“This album was initially meant to be released in Spring. Unfortunately, my hard-drive suffered a major electrocution resulting in the loss of a big portion of the material I had worked on. This meant I had to re-work the compositions, with Side B having to be re-written from scratch.The new material was heavily influenced by Western Church’s hymns, from Afro-American Gospel choirs to Romanian liturgy, Byzantine hymns and bell sounds from Notre-Dame de Paris. What I found remarkable about this music is its content and language, as deep and fearful meanings are hidden behind the large choirs and the long melodies. Although they share elements, each different culture has found ways to incorporate their unique characteristics and attitudes towards life in their religious music, thus rendering Christian Hymns as a living and ever evolving part of Western Civilizations’ cultural history. The differences in the morphology, style and technique of the different songs reveal each culture’s values, life style and expectations. My childhood experiences with the Greek Orthodox Church have composed a totally alienating picture of Christianity, characterized by strange habits and imposing feelings. My hope is that I have managed to convey this odd feeling with this album.
- Byron Christodoulou

01. 71208 (05:04)
02. v.a.g.u.e. (05:27)
03. 3 (03:20)
04. Begin to be (06:51)
05. mvolpot I (09:34)
06. mvolpot II (11:06)

All music written & produced by Byron Christodoulou
Mastered at Irida Studios,Athens
Artwork by Steven Ramsey


ACL Best 2012 : Best Cover (#18) & Top Ten Experimental
This cassette may sound like a waterlogged record or a damaged CD, but it’s the result of a computer crash: zeroes and ones strewn about the digital ether. The original sounds may never be recovered, but it’s hard to imagine them being better than the half-altered, half-recreated versions. The suite is also a reaction to splintered faith; it’s the aural expression of tikkun olam. Richard Allen for A Closer Listen

An absolutely wild release from Byron Christodoulou, a mixture of glitch, drone and choir that shines a light of the brokenness of organized religion without completely denouncing it. The recording itself was demolished and reconstructed, leaving only faint embers of its prior existence. In the same way, faith can be broken down and reconstructed; this suite is an ode to that possibility. A hard drive crash is responsible for one of the year’s most fascinating releases. If not for this technical disaster, Byron Christoloudou (Golders Green) would not have been forced to rewrite his material from scratch, and the best parts of this album might never have been added. Ghosts of the former album lurk in the suite’s subterranean levels, as important as the additions, yet all the more mysterious due to their recovered, damaged status. The surface drones may be primary material or file echoes; the permeable borders add to the allure. ”mvolpot II” even contains the ugly sound of a failing disc, which may cause listeners to sit up and swear, thinking their iPods or CD drives have failed. The irony: this is a cassette. While vinyl skips have been used extensively in modern recordings, it’s rare to incorporate a modern glitch in an older format. The new material is the meat of the album. Christoloudou writes that he was influenced by “Afro-American Gospel choirs, Romanian liturgy, Byzantine hymns and the bells of Notre Dame”. As lovely as these influences may be, the artist also admits that his Greek Orthodox upbringing left him with a feeling of religious alienation – a sad and all-too-common experience. The disparity between the purity of intention and the disappointment of execution lends this recording its intensity. When the choirs sing, when the priests chant, when the organ pipes fill, the ear automatically strains in hope of holiness. But then the drones, the glitches, the volume reductions cloak these sources; even the bells seem a bit off-pitch. Such distortions reflect centuries of distorted teaching, the human warpings that rob religion of its power. And yet, despite the fact that the teachings – and by extension, these sound sources – are distorted, they still contain an undeniable allure, filtered yet intact. One wishes for religion to be pure, but realizing it is not, one continues to hold tightly to certain precepts: grace, redemption, transcendence. The Christian Church in particular is to many beautiful, yet scarred; some may discard its teachings, but remember what it was like to believe in a vision so fair. Golders Green itself is a diverse London community, packed with synagogues and churches (a Greek Orthodox church among them), as well as a Hindu temple. Over the course of the past century, the Christian influence has been reduced from prominent to merely present. And yet, despite the area’s cosmopolitan nature, the bells still ring, the prayers are still recited. If only in echoes, the original hopes of the founders still exist, like music once thought lost, then recovered. – Richard Allen for A Closer Listen

Byron Christodoulou delivers the strongest noise/ambient release I have heard all year. The album opens in the stratosphere, giving way to pumping white noise that introduces the album with a wonderful balance of static and fleeting melodic lines. The opening of “3” is something magical, a chorus of layered voice samples, fuzz and reverb that sets the tone for the rest of the album. What this album does best is move you from one space to another strategically. There is a constant and deliberate sense of space throughout which transforms gently at some parts, and abruptly enough to redirect your focus at others. “Begin to be” opens at the album’s widest and jolts you quickly back to the intimate. The resolution of the album is extremely fleeting, as are most of the comfortable themes throughout. The work feels like a foggy, confused journey from scene to scene always traveling by fuzz or noise from one motive to another. You are always quite comfortable and are always an observer, until the climax of “mvolpot II”. This requiem is the cornerstone of this work, a huge piece that will jolt you from the third party role and put you in the middle of something much larger than anything else on this album. This work is a masterpiece and is not to be missed. Also check out other releases within the Felt Collective. – Attention Attention

Here is a question for the ages: is the hard drive crash a net gain or a net loss for music fans? Ontario-based indie rockers The Rest famously sent a liquefied storage device to a firm that recovers black box data from downed airplanes. After a nail-biting five months, their album SEESAW was reproduced fully intact. No harm, no foul. But what of the other cases, when the data is simply erased? Does the weight of the lost recordings strengthen the artist’s resolve? Does it merely complicate the process of recording and post-production? Or is it the aesthetic cost too much to pay? In the case of Byron Christodoulou’s Golders Green debut, you can make a pretty solid case for strengthen the artist’s resolve: This album was initially meant to be released in Spring. Unfortunately, my hard-drive suffered a major electrocution resulting in the loss of a big portion of the material I had worked on. This meant I had to re-work the compositions, with Side B having to be re-written from scratch. The new material was heavily influenced by Western Church’s hymns, from Afro-American Gospel choirs to Romanian liturgy, Byzantine hymns and bell sounds from Notre-Dame de Paris. The rebuilding of Suite no.2 in Drone major (op.3) begins, it seems, half-way through Side A, with “Golders Green.” Hymns are slowed to a crawl, and the listener suspects physical media at once: if we’ve learned anything listening to The Boats, it’s that tape joyously skews dimensions while leaving the personality of the source intact. (Appearances are misleading. The album was created digitally.) This is a brief and ambiguous passage, albeit a resonant one. In time the voices take on a blonde haze, surging in number and amplitude: a sunrise transcribed to music. New beginnings, another day — surely the impression can’t be accidental. Say the same for the track’s coda: the distant sound of marching, which is to say, marching on. Side B — the data from which was completely lost — starts similarly, but grows increasingly noisier, at times irate. The 20-minute span is divided into two movements of roughly the same length, “mvolpot” I and II. Part I expands the choral theme of “Golders Green;” again, the slow rivers of processed voice, the pastel echoes, and the exaggerated distance. Clipped, seemingly reversed field recordings pass like mile markers, until a circuit trips somewhere and we recognize the bells promised by the one-sheet. Christodoulou writes, “What I found remarkable about [religious] music is its content and language, as deep and fearful meanings are hidden behind the large choirs and the long melodies.” Between the deafening notes of a 13-ton bourdon bell and the prolonged, whitewashed vocals, this may be the most subtle, well-forged concept album of the year. Self-referential, but only in most intriguing of ways. Part II trades in daybreak for overcast sky. Christodoulou distorts the vocal samples to something close to a menacing chant, and then abandons them altogether at about three minutes in. “Cuts them off” is probably a better description: no composer can conceal the track’s genesis, nor should he, and “mvolpot II” settles into a stratum of electronic glitches, now near-silence, and, eventually, grueling static lightly dusted with the echoes of the preceding track. Christodoulou’s frustration is clear, yet is tempered with the exhilaration of new aesthetic creation. Of course not all of Suite no.2 is the story of rebuilding Suite no.2. Opening track “71208″ offers a glowing, moody, and singular first look, where “Begin to be” crackles with anxiety and wears one dozen different faces in its seven minute duration. The press surrounding Byron Christodoulou’s work emphasizes its diversity: dark ambient, noise, field recordings, guitar experimentation, lo-fi, choral, cinematic. It is a fitting observation, but it implies thematic inconsistency. This is exactly the book we were supposed to read, even if it took a couple of drafts before we could. Just make sure to save a backup copy. – Fred Nolan for ‘Fluid Radio’

Golders Green exists at the midpoint between psychedelic and drone. This includes elements of drone, noise, found sound, and large dollops of digital debris. Picture the strangest elements of hypnagogic drone meshing with Tim Hecker’s work. Emotionally Golders Green creates this comforting aural universe. Sheer rhythmic repetition, the inclusion of errors, and rather haunting melodies make it amazingly engrossing. Indeed there is quite a range within these tracks. ‘71208’ refuses to settle down. Various phases occur simultaneously leading to a tender midpoint where everything appears to come together. Beats appear on ‘v.a.g.u.e’ as if the sound is unsteadily galloping towards something. This song is nearly dub in its absorption of all surrounding noises ‘Begin to be’ experiments with harsher static noise. After this comes the unclassifiable two part conclusion of ‘mvolplot’. Part I is beautiful. A naïve melody begins. Most of it appears to sound like it was fed to go backwards in time. Rather affecting, almost touching, it leads to a giant expressive ocean of sound. Golders Green adds additional noises, bells, static, and messes slightly with the equilibrium. Shards of the original beginning melody filter in and out of the mix. Errors like this makes it feel human. For part II Golders Green transforms it into a harsh noise piece before destabilizing it (hence the digital clicks). Harsh, harsh static prevails before it sudden cuts out. A horribly mangled, barely audible sample sings out for the duration of the album. Classification of ‘Suite no.2 in Drone major (op.3)’ is nearly impossible. Well-executed, emotional, and jagged, it is extraordinarily memorable in its unique approach to sound design. – Beach Slot (8,2/10)

Si tout n’était que résonance. Le choc des atomes, des molécules. La rencontre fortuite d’êtres titubants. Mon radiateur me parle quand je me cogne la tête contre lui. En tendant l’oreille, tout chante – des fenêtres aux cheminées. Si tout n’était que la résonance des cloches. Tout serait vague, erratique. Cherchant le soleil, rampant et s’entassant jusqu’à former des rocs. Chanter dos au sol, formant d’immenses idéogrammes à la gloire de l’oubli d’un culte. La plante des pieds contre la tête. Jusqu’à la formation d’une île. Ou d’une presqu’île [...] Golders Green nous vient de Byron Christodoulou, et est à la fois très mélodieux, mais aussi noise et drone au possible. Influencé en grande partie par différents chants religieux (il cite entre autres les liturgies roumaines, les chants byzantins, les gospels afro-américains…), mais aussi selon moi par James Ferraro, l’album s’en trouve comme un manifeste de différentes religions, oublié et naviguant quelque part, cramé par l’eau, le sel et le soleil. Impossible ou presque d’apprécier ce fruit, amer lors des premières écoutes mais de plus en plus attrayant après quelques “efforts”. Sans aucun doute la sortie la plus expérimentale de chez BLWBCK, et l’une des curiosités musicales qui m’aura le plus emballé ces derniers mois. Amateurs de noise, drone, religions, lo-fi, tape manipulation, ovnis, collages sonores, ambient… jetez-vous dessus. - Ambient Churches