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Peter Wright - Bright Failing Star

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Artist: Peter Wright

Album: Bright Failing Star

Label: Release The Bats

Review date: Dec. 4, 2009

New Zealand guitarist Peter Wright’s take on ‘the drone,’ that most over-prescribed of experimental music default settings, has always been intensely personal, as if his ribbons of guitar drift are populated with details drawn from his private life. The notes that come with Bright Failing Star suggest he sees it that way too, with Wright setting the album physically within the context of a freezing cold, borderline uninhabitable south London flat. This concretises Wright’s experience, and his art – no recourse to the firmament, or the noise of the cosmos for him.

It’s a relief to find an artist within this field that doesn’t mystify their output. In this respect Wright reminds me of English musician Andrew Chalk, and rather like Chalk, Wright has been on a winning streak over the past few years, releasing a staggering amount of music that somehow makes drone and ambience essential again, recasts it as a living, breathing form. Bright Failing Star is another leap forward for Wright – unlike the pastoral idyll of earlier albums like Yellow Horizon, it’s much darker, but not in any typical or clichéd manner: as the album title suggests, it captures the last moments of activity before a phenomenon disappears from sight. And while it’s ‘spacious and panoramic,’ as Wright notes, you can still hear the tensions of his living conditions.

Wright’s key tactic is to suspend notes in the air in front of you, so that they neither announce their presence nor flag their decay – they’re simply there, in a constant state of becoming. This is most potent during the opening minutes of “Magnetic,” where angelic droplets of near-melody tangle and weave from the speakers. Much like the cover images, which catch the blur of lights photographed from transit, reminding of Marie Menken’s experimental film miniature Lights, Wright often smears pointillist actions (the plucking of notes) into great washes of indistinct noise.

He’s fond of crescendos, and both “Magnetic” and side two’s “Arrest” start slowly and accumulate intensity, which has the odd effect of progressively turning down the detail. By the end of “Arrest,” the drones have turned silvery, metallic, crackling with electricity, sparking like fuses. But the approach is still the same – to melt time.

By Jon Dale

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