His technique of recording hundreds of tracks of acoustic instruments and then layering them on top of each other enabling him to explore different (micro) tonalities and timbres within the “note” did not share any similarities though, and this is what I think separated him from the Ambient crowd and placed him squarely within the Acousmatic zone. In 2003, empreintes DIGITALes released Seuil de silences (Threshold of Silences). About the album, right out of the gate we have “Below the Walls of Jericho”. Using 1990 tape technology, Dolden was able to achieve a sound that was sonically massive AND compositionally advanced for what was generally considered “ambient” music back then. His controlled use of dynamics is unparalleled. The shared tracks were remastered by Dolden using up to date, state of the art studio gear. Have a listen, see for yourselves. There are parts throughout that can easily lull you into a serene state of catatonia only to be bludgeoned back into the real suddenly and without warning. Realizing that Acousmatic music is meant for the listener to interpret in their own personal way without concerning (and distracting) themselves with such trivial things as sound sources or the “how” of creating the music…one can’t help but wonder “how” exactly did Dolden come up with this malevolent entity of sound? Sometimes I’ll spend the length of an entire album of Dolden music just marveling at its vastness. The effect is riveting, and it’s something that really needs to be heard rather than described with puny words. I wasn’t aware of it at the time but listening to it now, three decades on I can say that what he was doing was fairly groundbreaking, if not, downright extreme for it’s time. It’s like that…you know! Seuil de silences has a much larger bass presence. Everything about this recording seems up close and personal as if you were living inside the sound. Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from the 60’s? The ending is not a hard cut as if you are turning off a light switch but it’s an ending where the instruments themselves just simply stop playing. There are aspects that stand out for me though. A final word, as in all Acousmatic music, a good sound system will enhance your experience by orders of magnitude. The passage ends suddenly and without warning. Finally, there were some musical content changes made that resulted in changing the times of the pieces by a small amount. This release shared 3 of the tape compositions from Threshold of Deafening Silence plus two more compositions featuring live soloists and tape. A YouTube video through computer speakers is not optimal so, if you can, try and listen on a good system of your choice. Then there is his penchant for ending a phrase in a very dry manner. Instead of wasting space talking about process, if interested you can read liner notes and other commentary by the composer here. It all sounds very natural and you can even hear residual noises of the musicians lifting their fingers from their instruments or the fading ring of struck metal decaying into the ether. I begin to feel it, in all its bone-shaking splendor. Everything I’ve mentioned is part of the physical world but if you are able to peel back the onion layer and start to experience it on a cerebral level, well that’s when the game really begins.
Paul Dolden is one of the most innovative artists out there right now. It also seems to be generally louder and more “in your face” than the 1990 version. You can hear and feel the build and you know you are about to experience a wheezing, screaming, utterly menacing harpy encounter and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. He considers these the definitive versions of his works The fact that he’s under the radar is criminal. There were some similarities, possibly his use of untuned and tuned percussion presented at times a sort of ritualistic/tribal feel to the music that was popping up at the time. In fact, if you (mistakenly) dropped him into that category you would have been discounting his musical and technical skills. I can’t stress enough how searingly intense this piece gets in places. AMN Reviews: Paul Dolden – Seuil de silences (2003; empreintes DIGITALes)
January 17, 2021January 17, 2021 ~ Mike
Since there has been a considerable stylistic and compositional shift in Paul Dolden’s music between this, his first album for empreintes DIGITALes and the last one I reviewed, (Histoires d’histoire), I would like to explore this release and possibly / hopefully give some insight as to how his sound evolved. Thankfully, this does not muddy up the sound and, in fact, adds even more drama and power to the compositions, something that I didn’t think was possible. Since I haven’t A-B’ed these versions on a granular level, I can’t really speak to these changes but, I believe they are minor…realizing the composer may think differently. If I do happen to get past this stage, the body aspect kicks in. Contrastingly, there are moments where you can see it coming. Among other released and unreleased pieces, he has made available the piece “Below the Walls of Jericho” with this new remaster. I’m not on a mission to belittle in any way the fine talents of musicians like Steve Roach or Robert Rich but clearly, this release finds Dolden walking a very different sonic pathway. My preferred way of listening is through decent earbuds augmented with a DAC/headphone amp. Mike Eisenberg Seuil de silences has a bit of a tangled history. Again, given the fact that these pieces display an absurd amount of power and intensity to begin with, adding more loudness may sound like overkill to some, although I’m not one who thinks this is so. There are some major aural differences in this release compared to the 1990 predecessor. He has actually done a second remaster which he is posting to his Bandcamp page. Let me try and explain this…you are reaching the tail end of a passage that is constructed with up to 400 tracks of wind, reed, string, choir, and metal percussive instruments. This is part one of a “Jericho” triptych that continues with his next 2 albums, Intoxicated by Speed 1 and 2. My personal experience with this music is, first and foremost trying to wrap my head around the sheer immensity of the sound stage. The genesis of this release was in 1990 with The Threshold of Deafening Silence on the now defunct Tronia label. I would even go as far as to say, our world hasn’t caught up to these four pieces yet.