Like falling snow, his dreamy work drifts with a poetic chill and tranquil hypnosis through which peripheral elements tease the listener with subtle details. It's so damn beautiful...
The Wire [Jim Haynes]
I like to think what I do is akin to a small seed that, given the right conditions, can grow into something far bigger than the work itself, a "trigger" which though does not contain enough information in itself to impart enlightenment, may possibly be sufficient to unlock the mechanisms inside one's mind that leads to enlightenment", it is something that can only exist in the most important of places – the mind of the listener.
Keith Berry's work has been released on such labels as Infraction, trente oiseaux, Crouton Music, Authorized Version, Twenty Hertz, Elevator Bath and non visual objects.
Towards the Blue Peninsula
This is a previously unreleased and new work from Keith Berry. Partially
inspired by Koda's "Movements" full-length recording from almost 10 years
ago, Berry has moved away from the computer-based compositions of 'The Ear
That was sold...' utilizing Akira Rabelais's Argeiphöntes Lyre software to
something a bit more windswept perhaps or at times aquatic and organic
sounding. Not that prior endeavors were ever easily categorized as
computer-based, or sterile environments - quite the opposite. What makes
Berry's recordings so engaging, is that one is never quite sure what the
source of sound is. It doesn't matter - each piece in their own right is
magnificent from the debut 'The Golden Boat' to the twin masterpieces, "The
Ear That Was Sold to a Fish" and "A Strange Feather" to "The Cartesian
Plane" LP and now "Towards the Blue Peninsula". Berry's recordings are the
result of letting ideas take their course, revising, re-visiting and
letting the works breathe.
Edition of 500 copies. CD is housed in a gloss cardstock envelope and then in a tip-on, mini-lp Japanese style gatefold outer sleeve. Designed by Timothy O'Donnell.
Here's a rare treat from veteran ambient powerhouse Keith Berry, which the press release says he has "moved away from the computer-based compositions of 'The Ear That was sold…' utilizing Akira Rabelais's Argeiphöntes Lyre software to something a bit more windswept perhaps or at times aquatic and organic sounding", but that technical stuff goes way over my head most of the time. It's a completely captivating collection of drones on a beautifully packaged CD, with submerged melodies poke out from soft pillows of static in languorous repeating patterns, dense subtly shifting chords blurred into shimmering clouds of tone.
It's mostly beautiful, calming music, grandiose in an almost spiritual way, although towards the end things take a turn for the sinister and discordant, somewhat briefly. I can't find a track list and the tracks run into one another but it is split into distinct sections. All in all a weighty but floaty treat.
As I observed Iain Stewart’s cover photograph, the ebbing-and-flowing attributes of Towards The Blue Peninsula brought my memory back to the magnificent 58° North, a DVD from 2008 which paired Stewart’s achingly beautiful imagery of Scottish marine areas and Keith Berry’s evocative music. Unwilling to snatch that item from the jaws of my messy archive for a comparison, I’m nevertheless sure that this previously unreleased work shares a few of its acoustic traits with the former. Straight away: it’s a new glorious illustration of Berry’s capability of impacting the listener’s cognitive states through blurred sonorities that cannot fail to set the mechanisms of yearning in motion.
The twelve tracks segue one into another, all revolving around massive reiterative structures hypothetically linkable to galactic landscapes, in addition to the feel of "underwater orchestra" representing the initial reaction to what we hear. The dilatory looping, the gradual changes of scenario and the suggestions generated by camouflaged pulses let us envisage a wise old man in his death bed, the chest moving slowly during the inspiration and expiration phase, mnemonic retentions released as the last ounces of physical strength are leaving the body. There’s an implicit, cryptic serenity behind all this. A soothing confirmation of the natural justness of what inescapably waits for all of us despite the forces uselessly spent to nurture the illusion of being remembered.
At the same time, we keep spinning the album to better penetrate its sonic detail. Yet this is not allowed by Berry, who works with frequencies so heavily equalized that, on occasion, one can imagine cumuli of two, three or more chords melting in an undefinable palette to emerge as pure harmonic vapor. Once again we have become addicted to that mix of mental absence and perception of the post-existence that typifies the finest chapters of contemporary minimal electronica. Don’t you dare to call this "ambient" – Mr. Berry doesn’t know the meaning of the word "wallpaper". Concentrate and listen deeply, enjoy the penultimate shades of awareness while preparing for the eventual leap into the cuddling arms of Mother Resonance. It takes a lifetime, but you should have known since the very beginning.
Touching Extremes [Massimo Ricci]
In a review of a previous Keith Berry Infraction, The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish, affordance theory was invoked, his music seen as a kind of ‘sonic prosthetic for personal world-making.’ Pretentious maybe, but somehow in keeping with an artist with goals beyond—one purporting ‘to plant a little seed in the listener that given the right conditions could grow into something far bigger than the work itself.‘ So… no slick mouse–click trickster he, steeped in Eastern philosophy (Wabi–Sabi, Zen, I Ching) and Sufi poetry (Hafiz, Rumi)–not to mention Western Thought (whisper it quietly: Huxley, Castaneda, Nietzsche). Early works on labels like Trente Oiseaux led to his bracketing with lowercasers like Günter and Roden, Feldman’s minimalism often attendant, and the air of Rabelais ware everywhere. Yet extremes of microsound and minimalism are largely subsumed to more fulsome expression, harmonic development and textural richness, marking him more a croney of Drone–Lords of The North—of Potter, Tate and Bradley, of Coleclough and Chalk.
Berry trails a decade of releases, from debut The Golden Boat to The Ear… and A Strange Feather, to The Cartesian Plane, each sui generis, yet adepts will spot his acousmatic signature straightaway; the bent for eerie beauty, for quiet, evanescent soundscapes–a slow unravelling of unmoored revenance, of cryptic vanishings. Towards the Blue Peninsula draws on Koda’s Movements, a decade–old low–light classic from Infraction‘s early back catalog, making of it something more aquatic and windswept. The sound is expansive and unreal, Berry’s summoning to oneiric elsewhereness a complement to the allusion to Joseph Cornell’s eponymous work, which seems to describe a kind of imaginary projected existence. It’s also reminiscent of his collaboration with photographer Iain Stewart, 58º North, a video work on which his OST is ‘naturally’ linked to a sometimes serene, sometimes perturbed, gaze on the sea’s movements and the horizon’s aspect. The way to Berry’s Blue Peninsula finds us similarly engulfed in swathes of rich timbrality—sombre swells streaked with soft digitalis and odd environmentalia, granular orchestration flecked with strange sutures. A spatial driftzone between the nothingness of Köner and the eternity of Basinski (or vice versa), engrossing drones and submerged melodies emerge from soft staticky pillows in languorous recursions, dense chord-shift blurred in washed-out tone-clouds.
Towards the Blue Peninsula is possessed of a grandeur that belies the lowercase subtlety of the compositions, bearing a freight of ineffability, the key the finding of a feeling of something somehow transcendent in enigmatic tonalities—‘…a kind of strange new romanticism, marrying postmodern compositional sensibilities of self–conscious forms with the deep inner content of romanticism.’
Igloo Magazine [Alan Lockett]
Some years ago he had a bunch of releases, more or less at the same time, or so it seemed, but in the last few years things were quieter. He still works within that field of drone music, all relatively dark but never too dark, all highly atmospheric and you never know how this was made. Most likely, but perhaps not at all, this is music generated from heavily treated field recordings. The odd thing, well perhaps in Berry's case, is that it's divided into twelve pieces, with a total length of fifty-one minutes, and these pieces something flow right into each other and sometimes they have a fade out, but during which the next piece also fades in slowly. There are no separate track titles, so probably it's one piece after all. Berry, from the UK, stays close to his UK counterparts, Monos, Ora, Paul Bradley, Jonathan Coleclough, Mirror, Andrew Chalk and maybe, at times, also a bit William Basinski like, with a slow decay over time. An excellent release of moody atmospheric music.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
Packed in a strikingly beautiful gatefold sleeve of thick carton ('tip-on mini-LP Japanese style'), together with a glossy inner photograph sleeve, this CD is a real gem to hold. But it's a real pleasure to listen to, too!
Though divided into 12 tracks, all named 'Untitled', it is in fact one continuous 50 minute 'flow' of 'windswept or at times aquatic and organic sounding' dronescapes.
"Berry's recordings are the result of letting ideas take their course, revising, re-visiting and letting the works breathe."
AmbientBlog [Peter van Cooten]
the cartesian plane
Picture disc LP
Elevator Bath's ongoing series of picture disc LPs (each record being adorned with full-color artwork by the recording artist) continues with Keith Berry's debut appearance on vinyl: An absolutely mesmerizing cycle of deep, meditative tranquility inextricably linked to Berry's otherworldly painting which appears behind the record's grooves.
The soundscapes along The Cartesian Plane are beautifully absorbing, heavy with the slow unraveling of emotions, almost beyond belief. There is an immense weight to these recordings, the richness of which belies the careful subtlety of the compositions. The sound is expansive and unreal, a perfect complement to the record's visual aspects which seem to describe a kind of alternate existence. Like bookends, the colorful images house a wealth of experiences, wonderful and frightening. As you gaze upon the rotating colors and Keith Berry's dense dream-sounds pour out of the speakers, total immersion in The Cartesian Plane is more than probable, it is certain.
Five years have passed since Keith Berry's masterful The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish, a disc that was something of a revelation for the lucky few who were able to obtain a copy of the original release. Since that time Berry's reputation has steadily grown, even though his discography has not. Aside from a few compilation appearances (including Elevator Bath's A Cleansing Ascension), he has remained silent. The release of The Cartesian Plane then truly calls for celebration, as it is precisely the record those of us who admire Berry's work have longed for.
Elsewhere I write about David Wells and how it took him a long time to come up with a new work. In that list of the UK drone minds one name is missing, Keith Berry, and perhaps its because, alike Wells, he hasn't released much lately. He too makes up this omission with the release of a picture disc on Elevator Bath, which grows into a nice series of releases by now. As said Berry is also on one of the UK drone heads, but unlike his many peers, he doesn't opt for a single track per side, but one side has two tracks and one has three. Its hard to say what the input is for these compositions, which is the usual case with drone music I guess, but my best guess is that Berry uses some kind of heavily processed field recordings to tell his five stories. Unfortunately there is not much difference between those pieces, so perhaps we should regard them as different parts of the same piece. Each of the five pieces is a strong monolithic block of sound, with very little to no movement. The perfect guide to absolute drone music. Majestic, slow, humming, atmospheric. And nothing much new under in that area, sadly to some. Perfect late night music.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
the ear that was sold to a fish / turn right a thousand feet from here
This is the place where film and mind intersect. An intricately detailed and mesmerizing follow-up to this London artist's release on trente oiseaux.
London composer Keith Berry's The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish is a complex, albeit soothing piece, stretching over nine tracks. The movement of the piece is akin to closing one's eyes while floating gently down a nightime river. But ironically, this slow pace demands quick attention, as the sound all around you passes you by. Fortunately, unlike a river experience, one gets the opportunity to discover additional nuances, that in themselves each open new worlds with repeated listening. Infraction is pleased to present this mind encompassing new work from one of the brightest electronic composers in the UK today. His previous work has been released on such labels as trente oiseaux, Authorized Version, and Twenty Hertz.
01 The sun rays of another pale afternoon | 5’12
02 Cars keep passing by | Rose Blood | 6’14
03 To me, it's just an oddness | 4’53
04 My backward voyage | 5’02
05 Surrounded by dark waters? | 5’17
06 Fuscous presages | 4’04
07 Knelt over the water | 5’43
08 Tomorrow I'll become adult | 0’59
09 You left me behind - but I can swim | 6’24
This double set from Infraction is going to turn heads for those who like something a little more majestic from their ambient music or the densely populated world of modern sound artists. 'The Ear That was Sold to a Fish' was originally released on Crouton six years ago and has since become a cult classic of the "genre", whatever that may be! Listening to this closely accompanying my morning brew I can see why it's considered a bit of a milestone. Taking the almost foreboding & isolationist sound-world you'd equate with some of Thomas Koner's best work, Berry adds intriguing layers of rumbling, snuffling exploratory scrunch to many of the stately pieces. There's powerful sampling of evocative plucked strings which adds a ponderous vibe to a subsequent number or two and investigating even further he proves himself to be an undoubted don of textural manipulation and atmosphere building. It's a deep sonic world this music inhabits. Dark & faintly ominous tones glide & envelop your mind whilst submerging you into an unsettling field of uncertainty. There's an aura of desolation to some passages but you're always left feeling rather excited by what's in store, like you've landed somewhere alien yet unimaginably intriguing, like being stood in an icy cavern crackling with untold secrets. The extra CD of unreleased material in this set displays an almost chamber-like classical grace – two beautiful, deep long movements instead of the numerous insanely titled pieces of '…fish'. He definitely takes his time over his work with years between each release and '…fish' has been an out-of-print collectors item for a while now. See what all the fuss is about, you know Infraction is one of the world's finest ambient stables so you should really consider adding this profoundly dense & affecting work to your library.
Keith Berry is an artist with ambitions beyond the ordinary, seeking “to plant a little seed in the listener that given the right conditions could grow into something far bigger than the work itself,” further articulating his ethos in quasi-spiritual terms: to “…work with blocks of sound in the same way a zen koan might work, in the sense that these “blocks” are supposed to be “triggers,” which, though they do not contain enough information in themselves to impart enlightenment, may possibly be sufficient to unlock the mechanisms inside one’s mind that leads to enlightenment.” Berry’s conceptualization has interesting linkages with affordance theory, where music is cast as a kind of sonic prosthetic for personal world making, music’s customary focus shifting from what it presumes to depict or say about the world to the worlds it makes possible. No fly-by-night mouse-click trick turner, then, Berry has steeped himself liberally in Western Thought (viz. Huxley, Castaneda, Nietzsche), Eastern philosophy (Wabi-Sabi, Zen, the I Ching), and the Sufi poets (Hafiz, Rumi) – just some of those whose ideas purportedly inform his artistic practice. Berry’s oddball title in fact derives from Hafiz, who writes of “a boy who couldn’t travel far so in his mind sells his ear to a fish and his eye to a bird.” Musically, though, it’s Akira Rabelais’s Argeïphontes Lyre & Recalcitrance programmes that are the stars; Rabelais’ ware is everywhere in The Ear‘s eerie air, giving new voice to captures from recorded sources (apparently including Les Baxter’s Exotica), tweaking a chair creak or twirling a bicycle wheel into spatial and glacial.
The suite sets out somewhere in a zone of liminal noise, proceeding, delicate, deliberate, each movement formed of a drone-drift-wash backdrop against which small acts incide – a flicker, a whisper, a remote rumble; a soft teeming of mandible chatter, insectoid scuttle, later traces of – what’s this? – strings and a piano. The hisses and crackles, and sudden lacunae are choreographed into pared back sound art vignettes which afford any number of images, metaphors, and ideas. The whole unfolds with a cadence akin to floating gently eyes-closed down a nightime river (Berry’s own analogy). Earlier release history has led to Berry being grouped along with the lowercase likes of Bernard Günter and Steve Roden. And the minimalism of Morton Feldman is often invoked as a presiding deity. But Berry largely eschews the more austere ends of microsound and minimalism in favour of subtle development and textural richness. Minimal in not making a fuss for attention, his relative fulsomeness of expression actually shows more of an affinity with the North-West Drone-lodge of Ora, Mirror, Monos, of Chalk and Coleclough, of Potter, Tate and Bradley. Minimal in means, Berry takes a pinch or an inch, then expands, taking pains over frequency range and emplacement. Recursive strategies are deployed – parts assembled and reassembled, revenants in subtly altered states, new acquisitions and mergers forming a perpetually evolving internal structure. “Cars Keep Passing By,” for example, resurrects part of “The Sun Rays of Another Pale Afternoon”, subtly elaborating in timbral glimmers whispering something like melody. And, to clinch what’s already a done deal, the accompanying unreleased LP is just as good, as evidenced by “It Might Be Better To Fail With Land In Sight”.
Like Rock, Drone is an area periodically pronounced dead by would-be arbiters of genre currency. Keith Berry’s The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish is one of those albums whose inner life and fertility is compelling evidence that Drone is not only alive, but with designs on immortality. The artful construction and architecture of this post-minimal space drone suite shows how spare means can be harnessed to rich ends, making it one of the most engrossing records of the year – whether 2011 or 2005.
igloo magazine [Alan Lockett]
When it was originally released in 2005, The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish came housed in a box filled with dyed flower petals – an ambitious statement for London-based artist Keith Berry’s third effort to see the light of day. However, Berry is nothing if not ambitious, drawing inspiration from Zen Buddhism and Sufi mysticism in a quest toward enlightenment – a lifetime-spanning endeavor.
This reissue scales back the craftiness of the original release, yet still packs a visual punch. Berry’s drift-inducing tones arrive in a crisply designed miniature gate-fold jacket complete with envelopes housing the individual discs – a bonus composition entitled Turn Right a Thousand Feet From Here is included on a second platter. Berry’s own photographs complete the package.
Not having been privy to the original sonic construction of The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish, I can’t comment as to the effect of Berry’s remastering efforts. That being said, the drones, field recordings, instrumentation and digital smatterings are effortlessly mixed such that even the most minute sounds make their presence known. This is not a blanket of sound – it is a sonic ecosystem to be experienced, cherished and immersed within.
While the palette sourced for The Ear That Was Sold to a Fish includes crackling, digital chirrups, string plucks and the like, the thirty-minute “Turn Right a Thousand Feet From Here" appears to be almost completely based in a world of amorphous drone. The sensation of intended isolation arises as the piece progresses, and is almost overwhelming. The inclusion of this second, previously unreleased, composition was a clever decision by those involved. The juxtaposition enhances the overall effect of both pieces, and extends the duration that the listener is allowed to engage with Berry’s sound world. Bravo!
Foxy Digitalis [Bryon Hayes]
This is the third work I encounter from Keith Berry, following his CD on Trente Oiseaux (Vital Weekly 416) and Authorized Version (Vital Weekly 450). Berry studied a lot of philosophy - from Lao tzu to Nietzsche and from the I Ching to Wabi Sabi - after which he decided to set these ideas to music. Using just a computer and software, he creates some beautiful drone related music. I believe that the sources he uses are the usual field recordings, but on some of the pieces on this new work, I am led to think they might also be real instruments, at least in a couple of tracks. Usually Berry takes a minimum of sound information and expands just on that little bit of sound information. Stretching it, altering it, making multiple layers and what other tricks the computer has to offer. Maybe what Berry does is quite simple but it's hardly of importance (see also the review of Jonathan Coleclough and Lethe's new CD). A lot of things are simple and easy to make, but to make it stand out from the rest is where the real power of the music lies. And in these nine pieces on this CD, Berry shows that he can definetly join the ranks of Mirror, Ora, Monos and Coleclough. I guess it's something in the UK air that these people breath that makes them produce such wonderful, beautiful music.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
Perseverance, circumspection, specularity. Longsuffering renouncers should never expect to be rewarded with anything different from an additional repassage through their own voiceless doubts; just like followers will continue to hold their breath until the necessity of oxygen will finally clear their salt-burned eyes, consumers of juvenilia will always be linked to moments and events that don't exist anymore - and maybe they were fallacious in the first place. Then, your time to delineate a personality is up and of course you're gonna pay for it, but indefiniteness becomes an instant gratification for those needing to hide behind a mental shelter; yet, it's likely that sorrow will constantly be a faithful companion throughout the trip. Thus, consider "The ear that was sold to a fish" like an undespoiled retrieved drawing of the many and one personal projections generated during childhood's games, all gathered under an incommensurable shadow of heartbreaking awareness which won't stop swallowing the few remains of that time we believed abundant and now are crying about as mostly wasted.
Touching Extremes [Massimo Ricci]
Of all the artists I've learned of in the past year, few – or perhaps none – have intrigued me more than Keith Berry. Initially, the apparent minimalism and stillness of his music reminds the listener of his sometime Trente Oiseaux labelmates Bernard Günter and Steve Roden. Upon close listening, though, Berry's music isn't so minimal or still after all.
Berry's music is most notable for its textural fullness; The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish is only minimal in the limited sense in which nothing that happens ever begs, or even asks, for the listener's attention. Beyond that, Berry's music is very generous – the sounds are exquisitely chosen and placed, there are more of them than there initially seem to be, and although he uses repeating gestures, he doesn't usually base his music around them. Berry's music also sounds like it was created with the recording in mind; The Ear… sounds as good in headphones as, say, a late Labradford album.
The apparent stillness of The Ear… is just the absence of an aggressively pursued direction. Berry likes to say that his music is like drifting down a river (he released an album in 2003 called The Golden Boat), and his simile is apt. The music doesn't stay in the same place; it just sometimes seems that way because it doesn't seem as if anyone is too worried about where the boat ends up. It's directional, but it takes its time to get where it's going, and the travel from point A to point B is more important than the points themselves.
Because of its textural richness, deliberate pacing and directionality, The Ear… will strike many listeners as evocative and cinematic, which sets Berry apart from many musicians who are otherwise reasonably close points of reference: Roden, Morton Feldman, and Michael Schumacher, for example.
Crouton is releasing The Ear… in a limited edition of 300, which is a shame – more people should hear it. If it becomes unavailable, you might find The Golden Boat or 2004's Buddha's Mile. They're all fairly similar aesthetically, but The Ear… is probably the eeriest of the three (pun not intended).
Dusted Magazine [Charlie Wilmoth]
As if ironically commenting on the size of the machine that produced it – a laptop about as large and heavy as a folded Sunday newspaper – much recent electronic music, from the subaquatic mysteries of irr. app. (ext.)'s Ozeanische Gefühle to the windswept Icelandic folk choirs of Akira Rabelais's Spellwauerynsherde, has explored vast reverberant space. London based sound artist Keith Berry came across Rabelais's ingenious software before discovering his music ("I was into Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies and Wabi Sabi, and his programs shifted what I was reading and feeling into the computer/software domain perfectly"). He used Rabelais's Argeiphöntes Lyre and Argeiphöntes Recalcitrance software to sculpt material culled from sources including Les Baxter exotica albums, high frequency test tones reworked to sound like insects, a creaking wooden chair and a bicycle wheel into the nine spacious, deceptively simple and hauntingly beautiful soundscapes that make up The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish, title courtesy of the Sufi poet Hafiz. It's Berry's most accomplished work to date, following on from his impressive 2003 debut The Golden Boat on Bernhard Günter's trente oiseaux imprint and last year's CD-R release Buddha's Mile.
Sufi poetry and Zen are important influences on Berry, who compares his working methods to the Japanese calligraphers who spend a whole day preparing brushes and paper then execute their drawings in a single burst of fast and inspired action, his goal being "to plant a little seed in the listener that given the right conditions could grow into something far bigger than the work itself". The album is accompanied by nine brief evocative prose poems by Massimo Ricci, to whom Berry sent a collection of old childhood holiday snaps and ideas "about a boy who couldn't travel far so in his mind sells his ear to a fish and his eye to a bird", and, in keeping with Crouton Music's original design aesthetic, comes in a six by five inch Kraft box filled with blue Indian Smalley leaves.
Wire [Dan Warburton]
In case such a declaration matters in the grand scheme of things, The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish is my Record of The Year for 2005.
That said, there is a unique facet to Keith Berry's impressionistic masterpiece that I cannot fully enjoy. You see, I have a very limited sense of smell. I've always blamed it on my pyrotechnic stunts during my college days when I would light my paintings on fire; and as grandiosely stupid as this made me look, the sensorial failings of my nose is more the result of genetics than anything I could have done to it. So when I opened the box for the first time to Keith Berry's The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish, I got a small tingle as something perfumed and pleasant drifted from the contents of the box, which contained not only a CD and booklet but also a delicate pile of dyed flower petals. Those of you who are not sensorially damaged might be able to place the scent; but I simply cannot. Regardless, Berry (with the help of the fine folks at Crouton Records) engineered an amazing feat: an album with a fragrance.
For very obvious reasons, the smell-o-rama trick is not what attracts me to the record; it's the seductively restrained compositions for quiet flickerings, muffled rumbles, and whispered reverberations that truly captured my imagination. Berry defines his work through the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Sufi poetry, striving for an artform that could "unlock the mechanisms inside one's mind that leads to enlightenment." In doing so, Berry begins with a series of unremarkable sounds which fall somewhere in the hushed white noise territories, possibly including the sound of a gentle spring shower or the empty spaces on shortwave bands. He molds these hisses, crackles, and shadows into subtle repeating forms which do, in fact, lend themselves to any number of images, metaphors, and ideas. Given that he landed his debut album on Trente Oiseaux, Berry's work falls in the lowercase school of ephemeral electronics alongside Steve Roden and Bernhard Gunter; but there is an antiquated tactility to his albums which hint at the same temporal netherworld as heard in Philip Jeck's avant-turntable melodramas.
This is sound artist Keith Berry's third CD, following on from The Golden Boat (trente oiseaux, 2003) and Buddha's Mile (Authorized Version, 2004), both of which the music press garlanded with praise. Berry works with what are now, since the invention of the sampler and the ascendancy of the laptop computer as a sound forge, familiar combinations of material - fragments of instrumental sound, field recordings, and his own electronics and treatments. Hundreds if not thousands of composers and improvisers are doing almost exactly the same thing, but barely a score of them have produced works that are worth revisiting. Berry can definitely be numbered among the successes.
Though the way he uses repetition and permutation is perhaps not too far removed from how Michael J Schumacher and Steve Roden work, his music sounds as little like theirs as they sound like each other. The computational indeterminacy (if that isn't a contradiction in terms, despite being literally correct) of Schumacher's ongoing series of Room Pieces, and Roden's more flowing, improvisatory mode of presentation, use time as a key determinant in the structure of the music, but in very different ways. Berry's approach to time-structure is to present the music as a series of evolutionary fits and starts, mimicking the way successive generations of humans have to relearn, to at least some degree, the history of music before finding a way of adding to it. So material on track two reiterates, with subtle changes, some of the material from track one, and new material is added; track three reiterates some of the material from tracks two and one (though perhaps less of the latter), then adds to it; etcetera. It gives the music an ever-evolving but readily comprehensible structure, so comprehensible in fact that you soon cease to be conscious of it and end up focusing solely on the graceful way the music unfolds (which sounds especially good on headphones, by the way). As in almost all of Morton Feldman's mature compositions, the material Berry uses may intentionally be limited in quantity and scope, but what's there is deployed in such a skilful manner that the possibilities are never exhausted and what ensues is enchantment rather than tedium. One shouldn't overplay the Feldman card, though; his and Berry's musics have little else in common. Other key factors that have influenced his work are Argeiphontes Lyre and Argeiphontes Recalcitrance (software programmes designed by Akira Rabelais), Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies (which can be accessed on Berry's website: www.twoinchesoffground.com), and Zen. The last of these is apparent from the titles of his CDs alone. The Ear . . . is drawn from the work of the Sufi poet Hafiz, and it concerns "a boy who couldn't travel far so in his mind sells his ear to a fish and his eye to a bird". Massimo Ricci has written a set of nine rather splendid little prose-poems for Berry, and these comprise the titles of the pieces on the CD. The CD and the poems are housed in a cardboard box together with a windfall of blue aromatic leaves. On the lid of the box there's a photograph of a fish swimming in a coffee cup; leaves dapple the water's surface. Everything connects up - title, music, poems, packaging; such close attention to detail is rare in this slapdash, makeshift world. That factor alone would make The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish cause for celebration, but the music transcends everything.
Sound323 [Brian Marley]
Ambient bedeutet ja auch immer: auf im weitesten Sinne angenehme Weise die betroffene Umgebung beinahe unmerklich verändernd und sich nicht zwingend in den Vordergrund drängend auf den Hörer einzuwirken. Das hier ist keine Ambient-Musik. Dieses kleine Schmuckstück zieht einen vom ersten Augenblick an, lenkt die ganze Aufmerksamkeit auf sich. Es beginnt bei der ungewöhnlichen Verpackung: in einem kleinen Karton, bis oben hin gefüllt mit künstlich gefärbten blauen Blättern, befindet sich eine schwarze Papierhülle, darin die CD. Weiters ein Blatt Papier, mit poetischen Kommentaren zu jedem der neun Tracks. Die Musik selber: fantastisch. Sehr leise, aber durchaus nicht ruhig, ständig ist Bewegung vorhanden, eine Richtung nicht immer erkennbar. Die Grundstimmung ist etwas unheimlich, dunkel, irgendwie: unter Wasser. Kann aber bei Gelegenheit gerne euphorisch-symphonische Züge annehmen. Wenn das passiert, ist es eine Art 'lowercase-Euphorie', also: nur wenig überschwänglich, phasenweise vielleicht mit den erhebenden Tape-Loops von William Basinski vergleichbar. Keith Berry nimmt sich Zeit, um Details in den Vordergrund zu Fokussieren, großflächig innezuhalten, während sich der Rest der Musik unvorhersehbar, jedoch nicht ziellos weiter ausbreitet. Mittels Kopfhörern: Bewusstseinserweiternd.
Echoes-online.de [Tobias Bolt]
Architecte des microcosmes sonores, Keith Berry offre avec cet album une vue imprenable sur le versant «concret» et naturaliste du continent «ambient». Un travail d'orfèvre musical qui, comme rarement, concilie les notions de fluidité, de méticulosité et de dépouillement.
Familier des philosophies orientales, des mystiques soufis et des élans de plénitude de la pensée zen, le compositeur Keith Berry développe avec la même sensibilité complexe une approche musicale se diffusant comme des vapeurs d'encens dans une brume matinale ouatée. Loin de toute forme de surcharge, The Ear that Sold to a Fish se dévoile comme un jeu d'ondes subtiles, grossissant et se rétractant dans des empreintes sonores reptiliennes, aux douces rondeurs organiques. Fluide comme le fil d'une rivière, la musique de Keith Berry s'emploie à envelopper l'auditeur de ses atmosphères pénétrantes, microcosmes organiques mêlant minimalisme instrumental et bruits de matières amplifiées. Comme sur ses précédents travaux, publiés chez Twenty Hertz et sur le label de Bernard Günther, Trente Oiseaux, cet album symbolise une écoute replacée avec un soin méticuleux au coeur de la source sonore, une approche environnementale, envoûtante et résolument ambiante de la musique concrète, où jamais la matière ne vient s'effriter dans des "white noise" bruyants ou dans un chaos "dark-ambient" frontal. Dès lors, même aux limites de la rupture, percluse de marques de grésillement ou de silences fixants, la musique de Keith Berry reste étonnamment compacte et coulante, comme une nappe sensorielle dont les nuances dépouillées s'accorderaient sur un rythme diffus dans une unité harmonique fascinante. De l'ambient-music qui coule de source en quelque sorte.
Octopus [Laurent Catala]
In September 2004, Keith Berry had politely made a request of the Helen Scarsdale Agency to listen to one of his recordings for consideration for future release through the Agency. Unfortunately due to the Agency being on working holiday in Australia, we were unable to get back in touch with Mr. Berry about the matter. While it is such a shame that we could not publish the recording in question, the good people at Crouton has enough sense to pick up from our failure and release Berry's remarkable album The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish. This marvellous construction of post-Feldman spaciousness and ghostly traces of somber melody make this one of the best records we have encountered in 2005. Handsomely packaged in a small cardboard box filled with perfumed and dyed petals. Truly delightful!
" To a frog that's never left his pond the ocean seems like a gamble... " What initially drew my attention to this piece of music was the quote from Rumi on the inlay card ( the C.D also comes nestling on a bed of blue smally leaves and includes original photographic work by the artist. ) I found instant reassurance in his words as I am at the beginning of a great adventure myself, I am new to this city and don't really know what I am doing here, yet. "The movement of the piece is akin to closing one's eyes whilst floating down a nightmare river. This latest offering by the London composer has definitely retained a sense of movement and adventure, certainly in a mysterious place but not necessarily nightmarish, a train journey in warm grey oceans, perhaps. I found it very comforting though the repetitive nature of some of the pieces can be some what tedious at times but once involved again what you have is a wonderful visual experience.The title of the album stares up some lovely imagery and questions. The composer's use of subtle nuances and harmony throughout brings you to some conclusions. All in all it's a place worth a few visits.
Ancor più avvincente il lavoro del londinese Keith Berry, già apprezzato in precedenti incisioni su Trente Oiseaux e Authorized Version. L'idea è quella di rendere (in) suono le suggestioni suscitate da letture di un certo peso (Castaneda, Huxley, Nietzsche, Lao Tzu, i grandi maestri sufi come Jala al-din Rumi, le filosofie orientali...): ne vien fuori una musica dal profilo sommesso e scavato, in apparenza lineare eppure granulosa e piena di sostanza, un assorto procedere di elaborazioni materiche via laptop (sembra di scorgere suoni naturali e field recordings, ma anche strumenti reali), minimi sintomi elettroacustici dalla grande serenità narrativa, assimilabili a certe opere dei connazionali Andrew Chalk e Jonathan Coleclough. (8/9)
Blow Up Magazine [Nicola Catalano]
Drone music is a field that this humble writer had once believed to have completed its life cycle. But this release by Keith Berry dispels that notion, showing the possibilities of how one can use simple means to achieve absolutely remarkable results. Beyond the objets d'art of the sort that Crouton is fast building a rep for (a tan, keepsake-size cardboard box, within which the disc and booklet rest on a bed of scented green leaves, cues the very leaves floating in the boxtop's tea cup), the listener is taken on a journey of very powerful soundworlds, all related to a subtlety of movement, with total care given to each tone. As far as emotional impact is concerned, this style of slow intensity calls to mind the work of fellow Englishman and turntable texture-sculpter Philip Jeck. Berry seems to give great importance to the frequencies range of sounds he uses. A large portion of a given track may be built from extremely low frequencies but occasionally a well-tuned, very high-register chirp will interfere, initiating a sudden moment of suspense. In its own marginal way, this is very "rhythmic" music, not on the scale at which we normally judge rhythms to occur but on a very large scale, the way tectonic plates might shudder along a faultline, rubbing gigantically yet slowly under the earth's surface.
e/i [Roddy Schrock]
Keith Berry est un personnage à part, un artiste qui compose sa musique comme il vit, influencé par quelques penseurs, poètes, le tout saupoudré de philosophie et pratiques orientales telles que le I Ching. Sa musique est ainsi, douce, contemplative, et comme les haikus, raconte beaucoup de choses en peu de notes. Adepte d'un minimalisme complexe, Keith Berry nous offre ici une suite à The Golden Boat, son précédent album paru sur Trente Oiseaux, le label de Bernhard Günter, largement consacré aux oeuvres minimales.
Il y a peu de différences entre chacune de ces pièces ou,
pour être plus précis, peu de différence entre un morceau
et le suivant, mais au fil des neufs pièces qui le composent, une
lente évolution se poursuit au cours de cet album.
On commence par des drones lancinants, sortes de nappes glacées et envoûtantes, parsemées de quelques bruitages épars, discrets, comme des objets qui roulent sur le sol, des cliquetis, sifflements ultra-aigus, le tout concourant à créer une ambiance à la fois apaisée, sereine, mais inquiétante car habitée. Les drones et nappes se superposent sur le deuxième morceau, gagnant en profondeur, les bruitages nous font penser à une usine dans le lointain, et les grésillements frétillants forment bientôt des chants d'insectes. Les bruitages sont alors plus présents, plus denses, les drones subissent des variations un peu plus importantes, et les ambiances s'enchaînent, aux insectes des champs font suite les clapotis de l'eau, puis les crépitements d'un feu, avec toujours cette même structure mouvante en guise de squelette, ce même mélange de drones et nappes acoustiques avec des micro-bruitages électroniques.
A mi-parcours les nappes ébauchent une mélodie, et ce qui
semble être une corde de contrebasse pincée ouvre de nouvelles
perspectives. Elle répond aux autres bruitages, côtoie des
artefacts numériques, des chocs métalliques. Un moyen de préparer
le septième morceau avec ce qui semble être un instrument traditionnel
à cordes pincées, produisant une lente mélodie. On
reste dans le domaine de la contemplation, et ce qui débutait un
peu comme un album de Biosphere se trouve ici comparable à une production
de Stephan Micus, ambient-world acoustique qui trouve son pendant néo-classique
sur l'avant-dernier titre de l'album, au piano.
Sur le dernier morceau, on retrouve un peu tous les éléments qui composent le disque, de manière assez organisée, et toujours la même finesse, la même subtilité dans l'intégration d'éléments électroniques sans concession sur une musique plus acoustique et apaisée. Un mélange surprenant mais à l'origine de toute la richesse de la musique de Keith Berry.
Un disque que le fans de Biosphere doivent se procurer de toute urgence (car limité à 300 exemplaires), tout comme les amateurs de productions ambient et minimales.
etherREAL [Fabrice Allard]
Véritablement noyé dans la sphère littéraire, à l'image du poisson qui orne sa pochette, Keith Berry à nourri sa culture et sa musique aux captivants écrits d'Aldous Huxley, Carlos Castenada, Lao Tzu ou Nietzsche , sustentant aussi sa démarche musicale de l'esthétique des poèmes Sufi de Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz, Jala Al-din Rumi ou de la philosophie Wabi Sabi, Zen, Compositeur électronique Anglais, Keith Berry a forgé son habilité, sa sensibilité et son savoir -faire sur des labels tels que trente Oiseaux, Authorized Version ou Twenty Hertz. C'est ici Crouton , label qui a contribué à l'essor d'artistes et collectifs tels que Collection of colonies of bees, ou Jon Mueller qui met ici l'accent sur ce jeune musicien d'outre-manche S'appuyant sur des softwares similaires à certains musiciens contemporains (Akira Rabelais) Il développe une musique planante, atmosphérique et ambianteS.. De cet amour pour la littérature, il aura transposé cet appétit pour la perception profonde de chaque chose, où l'ordonnancement des sons, comme celui des mots répond à une logique de sens. Une musique intelligente et subtile, réfléchie et spontanée de laquelle émane une belle fragilité extrême-orientale. L'usage d'instruments japonais n'étant sans doute pas étranger à l'affaireS Relaxant et posé.
Keith Berry plaadil on pikkade helidega ambient, mille kaugest sügavusest näib kostvat pehmet krõbinat või kõlksumist, siin-seal lisavad närvilisust teravad ja kõrged toonid. Kindlasti on see muusika, mis tõuseb paremini esile süvenenud kuulamisel, et, nagu artist ise soovib, "päästa kuulaja vaimus valla valgustusele viivad mehhanismid". Viimane küll sedapuhku ei õnnestunud (kahtlustan, et mind takistasid need kõrged pininad). See on ses mõttes haruldase tekstuuriga plaat, et miski, mis kõlab, nagu ta seal olema ei peaks, on seal ikka, enesestmõistetavalt ja jälle, mõjudes samavõrra tehnilise defekti kui kompositsioonilise elemendina. Teose kompositsioon põhineb vahelduvate helide blokkidel, mudel töötab ühelt poolt irregulaarse uneluse ja kompositsioonilise aegluse ning teisalt kõlalise intensiivsuse ja võõrapärase äratuse rütmil. Plaadi lõpus toimub kaks muutust: esmalt ilmuvad rauged ja lagunenud idamaise kõlaga helid, seejärel (esimest korda albumil) mõneks ajaks diskreetne rütm, misjärel kogu plaat suubub taas vaikse raginaga eikuhugi.
Muusika [Erkki Luuk]
Housed within a small cardboard box filled with blue aromatic leaves, adorned by the composer's photographic work, and further complemented by nine short poems by Massimo Ricci (the source for the titles of the CD's nine pieces), Keith Berry's The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish (derived from the Sufi poet Hafiz, the title concerns "a boy who couldn't travel far so in his mind sells his ear to a fish and his eye to a bird") is presented so arrestingly, one fears the music on the London composer's third recording might suffer by comparison. Such fears are immediately allayed by the nuanced caliber of its ghostly contents, though that won't surprise listeners familiar with past Berry recordings like The Golden Boat (Trente Oiseaux, 2003) and Buddha's Mile (Authorized Version, 2004). There's a natural temptation to group him with artists like Bernard Günter, Steve Roden (both also affiliated with Trente Oiseaux), and Morton Feldman but Berry 's work largely eschews microsound minimalism for development-understated and incremental, admittedly-and textural richness.
Working with Akira Rabelais' software programs Argeiphontes Lyre & Argeiphontes Recalcitrance, field elements, and a large array of textures, Berry 's album unfurls quietly, sometimes nearly below the threshold of audibility, with repeating sounds intensifying as each piece builds on the one before. After faint rumblings, droning washes, and insect chatter quietly inaugurate the album in "The Sun Rays of Another Pale Afternoon," "Cars Keep Passing By," for example, resurrects its material and then ever so subtly elaborates upon it with tonal glimmers that hint at an elusive melody. In the haunted "Can You Elevate Yourself," phantom orchestral sounds loop in the background, almost smothered by crusty ripples of gouged vinyl, while "Knelt Over the Water" exudes the ritualistic aura of a Noh play. One becomes so attuned to the album's restrained presentation that when the pluck of an acoustic bass and a koto-like twang appear in "Fuscous Presages Don't Help" and "Knelt Over the Water" respectively, the moments almost startle. Though Berry himself likens his music to the experience of drifting down a river, a better analogue might be to the blossoming of a flower in slow-motion.
Der Waschzettel preist diesen Londoner Komponisten, dessen dröhnminimalistisches (Evre bisher auf Trente Oiseaux (The Golden Boat, 2003), Authorized Version und Twenty Hertz erschienen ist, als jemanden, der mit Huxley, Castaneda, Lao Tse und Nietzsche per Du, der in Sufismus, Wabi-Sabi und I Ging eingeweiht ist und nur noch auf die Akira Rabelais′schen Softwareprogramme Argeiphontes Lyre & Argeiphontes Recalcitrance wartete, um nun mit eigenem Magischen Sound-Realismus den Schleier der Maya zu durchdringen. Berry versteht seine sanften und flach gewellten Soundblocks als Koans, die zwar nicht die Erleuchtung selbst bedeuten, aber als Katalysatoren fungieren könnten, als Schlüssel für die Pforten der Wahrnehmung. Diese pure und explizite Esoterik und Audiognosis materialisiert sich in sehr subtilen Dröhn- und Knistermikrophonien, Klängen die sich auf Schwingen dahin bewegen und dabei die Luft verwirbeln und mit lnsektenbeinchen feines Sandkorngeriesel lostreten. Und nach zwanzig Minuten vollster Konzentration mit geschlossenen Augen spüre ich, von Vögelchen umpiepst und während eine Koto plonkt, tatsächlich, wie der Schlüsselbart einrastet. Die Erleuchtung nähert sich mir in Gestalt von... Nietzsche?! Unterm Arm hat er seine kaputte Schreibmachine geklemmt, am Schnauzer kleben noch Reste seines geliebten Gelati und er drückt mir einen Zettel in die Hand, lässig und routiniert wie ein Pizzabote aus dem Jenseits. lch entfalte ihn und lese - ver - dammt, wer soll denn dieses Gekrakel entziffern? ...anfangen, über eine komische Lösung nachzudenken"???
Bad Alchemy [D]
One of two newish releases by this droning London-based minimal fellow. Sadly this one's a bit on the dull side; seems to comprise no more then a series of very forgettable, and very similar, short ambient pieces, made from slow and vague synth-generated scapes. The only small saving grace is the addition of some extremely subtle sound effects, so low in the mix as to be almost indiscernible, but vaguely suggestive of something watery (perhaps subliminally). Indeed, the intention seems to be to evoke the experience of 'closing one's eyes while floating gently down a nighttime river'. Perhaps some tracks also allude to episodes in the life of said fish, and when interpreted in this way it does convey a fine sense of peace and loneliness, as though exploring a marine world or a deserted island, all alone. Not much more than that though. Berry is no lightweight; he's immersed himself in Zen, Sufi poetry, Oriental and Western philosophy, and even the i Ching. He's trying hard to find a way to work these intellectual profundities into the hard drive of his Apple Mac, and create blocks of electronic sound that function like zen koans, in such ways as to 'unlock the mechanisms inside one's mind that lead to enlightenment.' Despite this, I still feel there may be a problem with depth of content, and not enough going on musically or intellectually to fully engage you. However, I intend to prove myself wrong on this account, and will continue to listen to Berry's work. Arrives packaged in a box with tea leaves.
The Sound Projector [Ed Pinsent]
Berry tends to state that his music is like drifting down a river, and indeed this is easy to see — his rich, texturally full movements ripple like minute waves that reflect the sun's rays in ever-changing shapes, caress them for a moment, and finally carry them in their bosom down underneath nuanced blocks of sound.
Neumu [Max Schaefer]
Keith Berry's earlier works were as still as a coy pond, but this effort is generous in its textural fullness. That being said, he's made mention that his music is like drifting down a river - a statement which still applies. With samples and field recordings in hand, these compositions don't ask for anything, but provide a rich weave of peculiar, nuanced blocks of sound.
Lost At Sea [Max Schaefer]
Berry's delicate, zen-influenced aural structures have previously been released on Trente Oiseaux, Authorised Version and Twenty Hertz. This release for Crouton comprises one piece indexed into 9 shorter pieces. It's a delight to listen to and immerse oneself in. Gentle drones hang in the air, punctuated by insect-like high-frequency sounds and movements whilst later the entrance of strings and a piano add yet more layers. A recommended addition to his catalogue of works.
Adverse Effect [David Wells]
A STRANGE FEATHER
TURN LEFT A THOUSAND FEET FROM HERE
100 (included with the first copies of "a strange feather")
The first 100 special editions, come with an extra bonus disc titled 'Turn left a thousand feet from here'. When this has sold out a second standard edition will be released without the bonus disc.
Twenty Hertz [Paul Bradley]
There is something absolutely enormous going on in Keith Berry's music, though I don't know what it is. Which makes me certain that there is something absolutely enormous going on in there.
Having debuted on CD only three years ago, and using only a small range of software programmes on his computer, he produces a kind of ambient music that might be called "thinking music" after the subtitle of a Brian Eno album (one of his influences). But it might also be characterized as "stop-thinking" music, music which helps wipe clean your mind so that it might better deal with the here and now.
Influenced by calligraphy, Zen and the Sufi master poets, Berry's A Strange Feather hovers somewhere between heaven and earth, sacred and profane, ethereal and material: Utterly beguiling sections of floating music are often juxtaposed with short samples of what sounds like very corporeal, organic material.
A new artist to watch whose inherent minimalism is both unique and uniquely spacious.
sonomu.net [Stephen Fruitman]
You have been warned before: Keith Berry is an upcoming name in the world of drone music. This new work (or if you are fast, two works, since the first 100 copies come with a free CDR) follows his releases on Trente Oiseaux, Authorized Version and Crouton Music (see Vital Weekly 416, 450 and 468) and this new one will further strengthen his position in that musical field. Also as noted before, Berry uses field recordings and computer treatments to create his music. Although he may arrive at similar music as say Monos, Ora or Mirror, it differs from them, since Berry's work exists in the digital domain unlike the others. Whereas they sound much more analogue, Berry uses the digital techniques to arrive at similar results. In that sense he is alike the label-owner of Twenty Hertz, Paul Bradley, who works in a similar way. Over the course of 'A Strange Feather', Berry occasional leaps into total silence, with just a single sound stirring everything up again and gliding back into this dark mass of sound, of an unidentifiable nature. The bonus disc is a twenty minute piece, 'Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here' is one long piece of darkness, less refined than 'A Strange Feather', more single minded, but setting deeply in your brain. Not with much innovation, but with a great, subtle impact.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
No available reason to justify our continuous fencing of shrouded instincts. We aren't willing to admit it yet, but an undeviating route to becoming totally forgotten by the rest of our own world of insulse acquaintances and uneducated friends is being traced - right now. With impassive perfectionism, superior presences give answers that are still too evasive, as one wants to know more about those strange fumes coming out of the underground; they modify their colour according to the feeble, sloping glimmer of casual watchers' smiles. Still speculating about our right of remaining misinterpreted, we stand still while perceiving a warm wind of docile dejection that swallows shapes and movements, drying tears before they're dropped on a book which is opened on the same page since weeks. Halfway through a poised strength and the desire of completely evaporating after being exposed to the malign disease of a rudimental menticide, we shut the windows, turn off the TV, pocket our small change and turn backwards, squeezing a sheet of handwritten memoranda into our sweaty palms until the ink gets blurred. Lying behind these undescribable impressions, the laziness of the senses is progressively exuviating; its remains will help the reason to be restored, as fear recoils from our newly acquired tranquillity.
Touching Extremes [Massimo Ricci]
It's a mystery how we managed to miss the previous recordings from the British ultra-minimalist Keith Berry, because if there's any justice in the world, he should be mentioned alongside such blue-chip drone artists as William Basinski, Thomas Koner, Bernhard Gunter, and Akira Rabelais. Yeah, his work is that good! He's got the sublimely romantic melodicism of Basinski, the glacial pacing of Koner, the hushed restraint of Gunter, and, um well, he's got a copy of Rabelais' legendary Argeiphontes Lyre software in his repertoire. But Berry is no mere aggregate of previously mined aesthetics, there's plenty to his work that speaks of his own beliefs and agendas which all draw heavily from Zen philosophies. While Berry's previous work The Golden Boat (Trente Oiseaux, 2003) and The Ear That Was Sold To The Fish (Crouton, 2005) were both exceptional releases (with the Crouton album easily being the best smelling record of 2005!), each of Berry's albums makes small adjustments that add up to an improvement and refinement of his sound; thus A Strange Feather stands out a remarkable achievement. Like all of the previously cited composers, Berry's fundamental structure is the drone supreme into which he bends field recordings, subtle instrumental arrangements, and small tactile events. Like falling snow, his dreamy work drifts with a poetic chill and tranquil hypnosis through which peripheral elements tease the listener with subtle details. It's so damn beautiful; and oh yes, the double cd version is very limited to 100 copies.
Aquarius Records [Jim Haynes]
Over recent years, Keith Berry has quietly produced an evocative body of glassine minimalist music that flirts along the event horizon of audibility with releases on trente oiseaux and Crouton. Heavily indebted to the contemplative quiet of Zen teachings, Berry works with sound from the inside out, moulding delicate fragments of sound into timbrally radiant swells that tumble in and out of silence through evolving patterns and repetitions. The thoroughly compelling A Strange Feather emerges as a snowdrift kaleidoscope in cold greys, wet greens and luminous whites. Within these elegant swells of wintry sound, gestural events punctuate Berry's blurred orchestration with down-pitched tactile bristlings and delicate electric vibrations. With the possible exception of Thomas Köner and William Basinski at their very best, no one else gets close to the overwhelming beauty and sombre tranquillity of Keith Berry's work.
Wire [Jim Haynes]
A Strange Feather and Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here are the fourth and fifth lengthy works Keith Berry has released in the past two and a half years or so. That might sound like a lot, but Berry is a small-m minimalist in the extreme, and his ideas take longer to explore than those of most composers. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that he'd need several CDs to document them all. A Strange Feather is his most recent; Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here is a limited-edition 20-minute bonus disc that accompanies it.
All of Berry's albums are based around electronic sounds, but on these two, Berry seems to use fewer of the field recordings that were prominent on his earlier Buddha's Mile and especially The Golden Boat. Thanks in part to the variety of different sounds, those albums sounded cinematic (The Golden Boat even had a programmatic theme, albeit a very loose one), but the new ones only occasionally do.
Many characteristics of Berry's music – like its slow changes and its occasional repetitive patterns – might remind the listener of Morton Feldman or Steve Roden. But here, it's not the repetitions or even the materials themselves that are most important for Berry; it's their sound quality. Berry's focus here is timbre – the all-encompassing richness of Berry's lengthy, swelling electronic sounds is pretty amazing here. They have the sort of inconsistency and complexity of sound quality that listeners often appreciate about acoustic music.
Take, for example, the repeated whispery sounds that first enter about eight and a half minutes into A Strange Feather. They're grainy-sounding and their component parts, including a bit of non-pitched hiss and a faint high-pitched sound, seem to fight with one another for primacy, giving the final result a subtly trembling urgency that brings the passage to life. Both records are filled with noises like these, and these albums therefore sound amazing in headphones or on speakers in a dark room.
Dusted Magazine [Charlie Wilmoth]
With a few releases on cult labels like Trente Oiseaux and Crouton, UK soundmaker Keith Berry is not exactly a newcomer, and his name is probably already familiar to many drone listeners. This limited edition cdr, professionally released on the exquisite Twenty Hertz label, features a lengthy and suggestive track of vanishing sounds and recurring ambiences. While soft digital cracklings and more recognizable environmental sounds punctuate the whole work, the emphasis is on the exapanding and immersive drones, which have a sort of melancholic and elegiac overtone. The inner writing actually seem to witness a moment of self release: "All the craziness, all the empty plots, all the ghosts and fears, all the grudges and sorrows have now passed. I must have inhaled a strange feather that finally fell out". While Berry's bent for quiet (though not necessarily "peaceful") composition easily explains his presence in the Trente Oiseaux catalogue, his thoughtful and slowly unfolding ambient music belongs to the same family of Mirror or Twenty Hertz's own Paul Bradley (especially in his recent "Anamnesis").
Chain D.L.K. [Eugenio Maggi]
On découvrait Keith Berry il y a quelques mois et ce fut une véritable révélation. Auteur d'une musique ambient minimale, l'Anglais est déjà de retour avec cet album sorti deux mois seulement après The Ear That was Sold to a Fish. On est alors logiquement en terrain connu. Nous n'avons par contre jamais parlé du label Twenty Hertz qui est en fait la résidence rêvée pour Keith Berry puisque ce label créé par Paul Bradley est dédié à l'ambient et aux drones. Paul Bradley oeuvre d'ailleurs exactement dans le même registre.
L'album est étrangement composé d'une seule piste d'une quarantaine de minutes, empêchant l'écoute-zapping. Ça tombe bien, la musique de Keith Berry se prête plutôt à la longue immersion en apnée. Pourtant A strange Feather semble être découpé en pièces distinctes, séparées par des silences. Peut-être ne sont-ce que des pauses, moments de répit ou ponctuations.
On ne passera pas des heures à décrire la musique de Keith Berry, finalement assez simple : superposition de nappes glacées infinies et rémanences de sonorités acoustiques (cordes, piano). Chaque son semble être un dernier soupir, et si cette musique est a priori apaisante, elle crée aussi une certaine inquiétude liée au silence et à la solitude. Amateur de poésie et de philosophie orientale, Keith Berry joint un petit poème à son album, dans lequel il est d'ailleurs question de folie, de fantômes, de peurs, de chagrins.
Si dans l'espace le silence absolu est maître, on a quand même envie de parler du vide sidéral qu'évoque cet album qui aurait pu servir de BO à 2001 L'Odyssée de l'Espace. En même temps, dans ce vide, tout semble être dit, un peu comme le blanc qui est la somme de toutes les couleurs.
Quelques field recordings viennent nous rappeler que l'on est encore sur notre bonne vieille Terre et pas au Paradis, quelques tintements de cloches, des frottements d'étoffes, des chuintements qui apportent aussi un peu de relief à une musique d'une linéarité stupéfiante.
Tout comme The Ear That was Sold to a Fish, A Strange Feather est un achat indispensable à tout fan de Biosphere. Pour information, les 100 premiers CDs sont dans une version double CD avec une autre pièce de 20 minutes intitulée Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here
etherREAL [Fabrice Allard]
Quelques mois après la parution de l'album The Ear that Was Sold to a Fish chroniqué par nos soins, Keith Berry revient avec un nouvel opus largement à la hauteur de son prédécesseur, pour une promenade dans un jardin japonais - la philosophie Zen étant une influence notable chez le Britannique - aux proportions hors du commun.
La flânerie ne saurait toutefois être linéaire, le parcours s'apparentant à un complexe labyrinthe sonore, impliquant moult détours, propices à la divagation de l'esprit. Par chance, rien ne presse, le temps s'est figé dans une parenthèse bienvenue, laissant ainsi le champ libre à … l'espace. Transparaît alors pleinement une des forces majeures de cette pièce s'étirant sur une quarantaine de minutes : A Strange Feather repose sur une dynamique spatiale faite d'amples allers et retours, sous-tendue de courants tantôt ascendants tantôt descendants, ondes fluides et vaporeuses. Immergé au sein de fréquences légères et caressantes, l'abandon n'est cependant pas de mise car le sentiment de lévitation sert au contraire à favoriser une concentration accrue, obligatoire pour parvenir à une complète perception de ces textures organiques veloutées, alliance parfaite de field recordings et d'électronique subtile. Aux côtés de Matt Waldron (Irr.App.Ext.), Steve Roden ou Jonathan Coleclough, Keith Berry maîtrise chaque étape de la création musicale, de son origine conceptuelle à sa présentation visuelle en passant par sa réalisation formelle. Une telle complétude artistique est rare, précieuse.
Octopus [Aymeric Lozet]
Following on from his recent release "the golden boat" on the trente oiseaux label, "buddha's mile" is a delightfully rich yet extremely subtle balance of electro acoustics and field recordings which calmly shifts and evolves throughout. A thoroughly "deep" listening experience.
Phil Julian Authorised Version
Endless seconds of silence transport the first sounds out of the speakers: a peripheral urban area that one watches from a safe distance while going home in a slightly rainy evening. From this desolated sense of grieving awareness we go to an even deeper level, to fading images of constantly shifting environmental sights. One moment it's like walking along a marsh with your dog sniffing and rustling around; right after a corner you meet a shortcut to incogitable, mind-bending materializations of unexpectedness. What transpires from the body reactions is our incapacity of accepting the unexplained; the soul is inappetent when it all comes down to fear. Passing halos of low drones make clear that the readmittance to a daily routine will carry a high-price tag; a final crumbling mass becomes just a symbolism for contemporary brainlessness. While thinking to all this, you've missed the last bus to home: your path starts now.
Touching Extremes [Massimo Ricci]
Berry's first full-length, The Golden Boat, was released in 2003 by Bernard Günter's Trente Oiseaux label, and Berry is similar to Günter in his use of space and his determination to not allow his music to force itself on its audience. But Berry's music is very much his own. Berry's sense of pacing is extraordinary and, as a friend of mine remarked (I made all my friends listen to The Golden Boat), makes his music seems like improv even though it's completely pre-planned. The sounds Berry uses, which come from acoustic and electronic sources, are lush and extremely well chosen.
Dusted Magazine [Charlie Wilmoth gushes about his favorite records of the year in 2004]
In Vital Weekly 416 I reviewed the first Keith Berry disc and I was quite amazed by the quality of his drone related material. Moving a long the lines of Mirror and Andrew Chalk, I thought back then, that Berry used sampled classical instruments to create his music. I still know nothing more about Berry, other than on this new work (one piece, thirty six minutes) he uses electro-acoustics and field recordings. But me thinks that there is also the use of sampled piano's and strings. In the opening sequence the vague rumble is apperent of what could be field recordings, but after the thirteen or so minutes, treated piano sounds drop in and the sustained sounds of processed strings. After that passage field seem to be moving in again, but this time maybe even more obscured. I gathered these as rain and wind sounds. These various movements are cross faded in a slow and peaceful order, leaving everything time to develop. Just like his previous release, this is another very nice work. For those who love Ora, Mirror and Chalk but also into more serious avant-garde music.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
Keith Berry's music has previously appeared on Bernhard Günther's label Trente Oiseaux, which makes a lot of sense soon after hitting the play button. A world of microscopic detail opens itself to us, and we are allowed to submerge ourselves in a sonic environment populated by noise, fragments of what seem to be melodic structures, organic textures and machine-like sounds. Shifts are very gentle, further enhancing the ability of the recording to draw one inside. After six minutes, the environmental noise slowly makes way for grim, drone-like sounds that are augmented with gentle crackling. Again, the comparison with music on the aforementioned label can be drawn. However, Berry's music does have a more fast-paced narrative, and does not tend to situate itself on the border of the audible and the inaudible, as Bernhard Günther's music (or that of one of the more usual microsound suspects Richard Chartier), sometimes appears to do. Instead, we find here a kaleidoscopic world of folding and unfolding bits and drones, elegantly shifting its envelopes and working out its possible configurations. I cannot help but sometimes feel something lurking, sometimes near, other times further away. Other times, the drones build a majestic soundtrack for a world that is vibrant, complex, and unrecognizable. Highly recommended.
Phosphor [Matthijs Kouw]
This one is 35 minutes of quiet field recordings, minimal music, and very gentle distant clanking sounds. Succeeds in creating an aura of mystery where the other CD doesn't quite manage it. Extremely delicate and subtle sound work, a very odd voyage in time and space, whose context and meaning is extremely elusive, nostalgic, and full of poignancy. Reminiscent of misty mountains, cool air, and silent films. Another fish-themed recording (there's a fish on the cover at least). Again, it can sometimes veer towards dull Ambient moaning, but not so badly as to break the powerful spell it casts. Aye, Brian Eno has become the Stockhausen of modern electronica, in the sense that some people just focus on one thing he did; in this case, probably 'Through Hollow Lands' from the Before and After Science LP. Vague impressions of floating on the sea in a boat (perhaps the same as Berry's own Golden Boat), of birdsong in a forest...a pleasant pastoral dream, quite beautiful.
The Sound Projector[Ed Pinsent]
the golden boat
Keith Berry is a sound artist based in London, his The Golden Boat consists of four pieces all quite consistent in style and sound quality to the point that they form, not unlike my own Un Peu de Neige Salie, a unified whole. Keith's work is very musical and beautiful, evolving at a slow pace, like the passing of clouds. It has a strong spatial quality, especially on headphones, and uses a variety of sound materials ranging from concrete to instrumental to electronic.
And this is where my ability to describe it ends: i'm afraid i'm not capable of a description that does Keith's music justice - the only way to deal with it is to listen to it, and all that is left to for me do is to strongly recommend it. The Golden Boat is certainly one of Trente Oiseaux 's highlights of 2003.
Bernhard Günter trente oiseaux
01 Under the boat | 5’12
02 no river | 6’14
03 On the river | 4’53
04 no boat | 5’02
Some of the best sound artists make music where vagueness is a virtue. While listening to this CD I felt the necessity of remaining seated, waiting for events coming out of a cloud of silence and undetermination; sure enough, soft frequencies, nebulous waves and mixed strokes were soon joining the strange, pre-rainstorm calm atmosphere made of mist and haze that characterized my afternoon's weather. I'd say "The golden boat" is the perfect record for early birds, right in those moments where even the smallest noises are shoved out like a persona non grata. You can pledge a hour of your life putting your ears in full reception mode, devoiding your room of any additional intrusion as Keith Berry's work must be fed with generous doses of reflective spaces and stimulated by total absence of speech. Let this sweet mizzle wrap you completely and enjoy its beauty.
Touching Extremes [Massimo Ricci]
This is the first work I have heard from London based sound artist Keith Berry. The first piece presents a series of "scenes," appearing then disappearing, passing us by as we travel on the golden boat, as we imagine ourselves drifting on the river, we open our eyes and close them, see things, dreaming still others, formulate narratives, impressions, respond with emotion and intellect, consider the journey, the sounds, the trees along the shore, reflecting calmly on the moving stream. Three more pieces follow, shorter but still belonging to the same journey, the same logic of sounds. Berry uses field recordings, electronics, piano, perhaps other instruments and objects, and has created a set of strong compositions that reveals its details slowly, rewards the patient listener, invites you to stay a while, dream with it for a while. Stillness and movement, light and dark: these are the elements in this compelling journey, certainly at home in the company of other Trente Oiseaux releases, although it clearly cuts a distinct, engaging path.
Incursion [Richard di Santo]
It starts with silence, as well it might, released on bernhard günter's trente oiseaux label, but the four tracks - movements might be more accurate, as the album is best experienced played through from beginning to end - that make up Keith Berry's The Golden Boat, while evidently influenced by günter's aesthetic (perhaps more so than his music), represent an intriguing synthesis of several areas of lowercase sound. From the world of static and predominantly tonal drone (think JLIAT ca.1996) via fractured laptop glitch to inside piano and - inevitably, one supposes - field recordings of water, Berry's music proceeds as a set of discrete events interspersed with silences of varying lengths. As is often the case with trente oiseaux music, you won't get much out of it unless you stop everything else you're doing, breathe deeply and listen intently, but The Golden Boat is no turn-on-tune-in-and-switch-off affair; the digital shudders and reverberant thuds are as unsettling as his sense of pitch and timing is astute, and despite the warmth of günter's mastering, Berry's creaking, scuffed surfaces, coloured by extremely delicate ultra-high frequencies, are cool and enigmatic. Along with Matt Waldron (aka irr.app.(ext.))'s Dust Pincher Appliances, this is one of the past year's most original and rewarding pieces of electronic music.
Paris Transatlantic [Dan Warburton]
Keith Berry's debut The Golden Boat was released on Bernhard Günter's Trente Oiseaux label, and it unsurprisingly shares much in common with Günter's own music. The Golden Boat begins with a half minute of silence and hardly rises above a whisper after that.
Still, this isn't the sort of record in which each sounding event is bookended by several minutes of rests, the kind that, even when it sounds wonderful, leaves you wondering if you should feel foolish for purchasing a CD containing sixty-eight minutes of silence. Berry's music has much in common with the recent works of silence-obsessed musicians like Radu Malfatti and Taku Sugimoto, not really because of Berry's use of space, but because Berry achieves with sound what Malfatti and Sugimoto often achieve with silence: a music that isn't ego-driven, that creates a sense of stillness and rewards intense concentration. In many ways, The Golden Boat is a very minimal record. But it's packed with ideas and careful details, and it's texturally rich and lovely from start to finish.
Berry, a little-known sound artist from London, creates his music using samples from CDs and, occasionally, from field recordings. Every so often, he uses straightforward samples of traditional instruments - some strings, a Japanese biwa, or a bit of John Tilbury-like piano. Most of the time, however, the sounds on The Golden Boat feel electronic. They're also gorgeous: Berry's high-pitched whines, pitched sustains and quiet scraping noises intermingle subtly and beautifully, and much of the album features trembling bits of static so tiny and fragile that a breeze could blow them away.
Berry's distant drones and hisses sound purposeful while still feeling as if they weren't conceived with the listener in mind - like the sound of a rainstorm, or a car horn heard from a mile away on a quiet night. Structurally, the album features no obvious signposts; it perpetually changes but never really develops. Berry writes, "The piece presents a series of 'scenes,' appearing then disappearing, passing us by as we travel on the golden boat, as we imagine ourselves drifting on the river." In the hands of a lesser artist, this approach might not work, but the lack of an obvious formal scheme makes perfect sense given Berry's control of his craft and unassuming style. The Golden Boat is one of the best records I've heard this year.
Dusted Magazine [Charlie Wilmoth]
One of the most beautiful releases lately comes from the London-based artist Keith berry. His latest output entitled The golden boat consists of four refined minimal soundscapes. Piecefully long drawn-out static noise has been combined with deep electronic frequences and concrete sound particles. Time seems to have been given another dimension, space has been extended unlimited.
Keith Berry creates relaxed ambient atmospheres in which slowly evolving elements form a detailed map of tranquility. The golden boat slowly floats on a big ocean. Another highlight presented by the label Trente Oiseaux.
Phosphor Magazine [Paul Bijlsma]
It's a pity that the small press blurb doesn't say much about who Keith Berry is or what he does, but that first sentence says 'four pieces all quite consistent in style and sound quality to the point that they form, not unlike my own Un Peu de Neige Salie, a unified whole' - the 'my' being of course Bernard Günter. This is where the labelboss and composer perfectly melt together. No distance (unfortunally). But no info on Keith or his music. That leaves the reviewer with some wrongly guessing I assume. I think Keith samples instruments - maybe recorded at his studio, maybe from a CD - like violins and piano's and treats them in the computer. Unlike the famous Günter CD 'Un Peu de Neige Salie' this is on an audible level and also unlike that work, this sounds less electronic to me. There is a certain nice warmth to this music that operates on a drone level. Thos who love Mirror or Andrew Chalk will find this of interest too. Especially the first and third, untitled piece is a perfect example of this. The fourth piece is less dense and almost vulnerable in approach. A sound here and there, with room for silence. The short second piece is by contrast the most musique concrete like piece with a love of acoustic objects. Altogether a fine CD, which isn't exactely coherent. Not that it matters very much, because what's pressed on the CD is indeed very good.
Vital Weekly [Frans de Waard]
La nuova proposta della trente oiseaux è un sound artist londinese e testimonia dell'orientamento decisamente più melodico che la label di Günter ha assunto con le ultime uscite. Un disco che si insinua gradualmente nell'ascoltatore fino a irretirlo completamente, con una serie di eleganti drones e stralci melodici intervallati da ampi spazi di silenzio. Il risultato ha un che di impalpabile che nei momenti migliori trascina nelle sue atmosfere rarefatte ma che d'altro canto richiede un'elaborazione più organica, che riesca a dare compiutezza a materiali ancora troppo frammentari e poco coesi. (6/7)
Blow Up Magazine [Daniela Cascella]
Let Berry's 'golden boat' carry you away on a pleasurable cruise...it's a sumptuous drone and crackle piece, whose front cover photograph suggests boat floating on a lake of honey, and that's pretty much the sensual experience it brings to listener. Very much in the late Brian Eno mode; simple, touching, and gentle. The sleeve note poses the conundrum 'Under the boat no river, on the river no boat'. So while you ponder this Zen-like riddle and try to figure out what the golden boat may be and where it is, you can enjoy this gorgeous, soothing, minimal music. For a Trente Oiseaux release, it certainly has a lot of activity going on...a trip on an imaginary canal in Cleopatra's barge with lovely English landscapes for company.
The Sound Projector [Ed Pinsent]
We could safely hazard a guess that even if this CD came with no indication whatsoever as to the artist and the publisher, quite many would identify it as a trent oiseaux proper, or at least related, production. Certainly not the latest release for the label, Keith Berry's debut album deserves a mention even now, two years since its premiere, as Bernhard Günter, trente oiseaux's owner refers to it as to one of his label's highlights of 2003. It begins with silence, unfurls unhurriedly and continues in this manner throughout the whole of the four untitled tracks. Abstract droning, high-pitched electronic tones or scraps of field recording ebb and flow, masterly arranged, undisturbed by any abrupt action, always at more or less steady pace, yet never monotonous. They resonate slowly, sustaining the overall effect of harmony and serenity, which sets in from the earliest minutes of the first track. The artwork, though a tad abstract at the first glance, reveals a close-up shot of a drop about to hit the surface of crystalline water, with the circle wave distorting the golden-tinged bottom. The photo seems to capture visually what Berry's work seems to embody aurally - re-tuning of human senses, usually accustomed to the rush of cursory following everyday banalities, in order to register the minimal, temporary, motionless, delicate and detailed. A work of exquisite beauty and sophistication.
eld rich palmer [Przemek Chojnacki]
Not unrelated, but more mannered and perhaps less generous, is London composer Keith Berry's The Golden Boat. While Berry's work shares with the aforementioned releases (referring to Marc Behrens and Francisco López's a szellem alma release) an antipathy to narrative development and compositional contrivance, it relies on somewhat heavier-handed gravities, as well as (to its credit) a more naturalistic spatial situation of sonic material. Relying on piano, bass, brass, harmonium, tapes and cell-phone audio and other electronic interferences, to interdependent purposes, The Golden Boat at its best is a tableaux of fishing wharfs, carpentry workshops and foghorns–dinghy tarps rent in three by bleeding, calloused hands at midnight for mysterious purposes. That it lends itself to the overlay of such cinematic imagery is both a strength and shortcoming.
e/i [William S. Fields]
Keith Berry uploads the brain universe that compressed the acidHUMANIX infectious disease of a chemical=anthropoid to the biocapturism corpse feti=streaming circuit of this abolition world.
Kenji Siratori author