Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Michael Begg - Moonlight and Sentiment

Michael Begg Moonlight and Sentiment coverIt's been a busy time for sound artist and experimental composer Michael Begg recently, which has seen him working on commissions and as an artist in residence involved in environment and climate projects composing music using programmed data in musical ways. Those interests have been picked up by the Black Glass Ensemble a collective he formed involving classical and experimental musicians (including Ben Ponton of :zoviet*france) who performed at the Edinburgh Festival to critical acclaim. If some of those combined science with music, Moonlight and Sentiment is perhaps more personal if unintentional. He writes "I was trying to realise something. Whatever the 'something' was refused to play, and so something else has been realised instead. Something I had little control over. But this record seems to speak more truly to my private clear-night-sky self than any contrived contribution I may otherwise have forced upon you here."

An earlier release A Moon That Lights Itself from Michael Begg described as a "work for electronics, strings and moonlight" drew on the works of French landscape artist Charles François Daubigny. Moonlight and Sentiment marks another fixture in his series of moon music releases and is just as captivating and alluring.

Moonlight and Sentiment is bathed in hushed movements and slow tonal changes involving synths, piano, and location recordings - from which the album rarely strays. That approach is articulated in the floating synths and slight wavering stream of frequency tones found on 'New Witness'. Its apparent stillness ruptured as it slowly breaks triggering a sparkling formation of tones, strings and piano the frequency tones beamed like a spotlight over the vast landscape, and perhaps towards space as the synths reveal a more widescape cosmic dimension. Darker strains wind their way through the knocks and brooding synths of 'The First Minister', casting a shadow over a brittle melancholic piano score unfurling into muffled voices of a sampled recording. From here Michael Begg continues to illustrate why he is regarded as such an innovative composer blending electronics and piano scores with environmental recordings.

The shudders and shifts of the deeply atmospheric 'Witness Engine: Xining Earthquake 2021' combine his work as a sound artist and composer where quaking movements erupt amidst clinking and rattling percussion and soft gliding bass tones. Handled so deftly, each tonal change marks another transition. Everything here seems to be in flux and it's a fine example of the unsettling compositions created from transforming programming environmental and climate data into "musically meaningful sound".

The mid-section of Moonlight and Sentiment is perhaps more personal featuring a trinity of tracks based around piano scores ranging from the sombre and reflective 'Wrong Hole Captain', through the tumbling notes and warm atmospherics of 'December Is Light And Warm' to the more optimistic and hopeful score of the evocative 'Chalfonts In Bloom'. Begg has spoken of how the melodic lines of the album drift into sentimentality but he's doing himself a disservice as these captivating compositions reveal almost hidden layers of subtle ambience and atmospherics. They are quite beautiful and fine examples of Begg's nocturnal sensibility.

Delving into deep burrowing synth strokes the brilliantly titled 'Efficiencies: Fuck This And Fuck You' is much darker and more spacious with passages of silence broken by swirls of ominous atmospherics daubed in dreamy lighter flourishes. Diving deeper in drifting movements 'First Night On The Sea' sounds as if we're floating through icy waters, reflected in the opening calls of seabirds accompanied by a more contemplative and hopeful wash of sound. It sinks deeper still with an end section of submerged recordings recalling the Welsh dark ambient project Llyn Y Cwn who also undertake marine based research above, below and beside the ocean.

Described by Michael Begg as the "authentic sound of moonlight suicides, Christmas midnights and a representation of a certain kind of recovered memory that ruins your sleep", Moonlight and Sentiment is a fragile and sensitive album where the transient movements and slow fluctuating tonal changes reflect the motions of the moon and the emotions and anxieties of those on land and on sea triggered by those lunar movements. Moonlight and Sentiment may be more personal but it is further proof of Begg's ability to transform his obsession with the twilight and the nocturne into beguiling melancholic compositions. Don't stop at this one though as the Omnempathy bandcamp page hosts many of his solo works along with releases from Black Glass Ensemble and Human Greed which also come recommended. Moonlight and Sentiment is available digitally from Omnempathy bandcamp and as a CD from Klanggalerie