Rating: 8 / Format: CD / Label: Highpoint Lowlife
The Village Orchestra is one of the various recording aliases of Ruaridh Law, a Glaswegian musician who’s a member of cult underground techno act Marcia Blaine School for Girls and a resident at the city’s infamous Numbers clubnight. He’s had at least five musical projects on the go in recent years, but lately the broken, monotone out-tronica he makes as The Village Orchestra seems to have become his priority again. In January he released The Dark is Rising, the first Village Orchestra record since 2006’s The-King-Of-All-Tears, and now follows it with a new full-length for Highpoint Lowlife, sometime home of Gravious, 10-20 and Hot City.
Where as The Dark is Rising saw Law indulge his house side, Sirens is largely beatless (the pulse patterns that do form are closer to Morse Code than 4×4), taking the form of one sixty minute atmospheric piece, designed as a live soundtrack to the first episode of MDP Psycho, a TV series directed by Takashi Miike (the director of Audition, Ichii the Killer, etc). There’s a lot of rain, there’s distant crackles, chimes and whirs, and rising, looped melodies that appear like rainbows after a storm: at half an hour in, when most of the rain’s subsided, you’re left with a passage genuinely up there with the best of loop music God William Basinski.
Most memorably, at semi-regular intervals a folk song comes in, cut up and reversed, only to fade out after a minute or so. It wouldn’t sound out of place on The Books’ The Lemon of Pink, and it’s so close to perfection that by the time the record’s finished and the song’s disappeared into the icy fog last time, you realise it was a bit too good to last. I Can Hear the Sirens is one of the year’s most distinct and measured albums, and although its peaks (that Basinski-esque loop section and the folk song) are very clear and the context to them isn’t always memorable, it’s more replayable than most records of this ilk, and shouldn’t slip through the cracks like a lot of modern ambient can.