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Keith Berry - The Golden Boat

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Artist: Keith Berry

Album: The Golden Boat

Label: Trente Oiseaux

Review date: Apr. 16, 2004


Keith Berry's debut The Golden Boat was released on Bernhard GŁnter's Trente Oiseaux label, and it unsurprisingly shares much in common with GŁnter'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.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of Keith Berry

The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish

A Strange Feather & Turn Left A Thousand Feet From Here

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View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Trente Oiseaux

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