Vanishing is the new album by Gareth Smith. Borne from the Islington Mill Arts Studios and featuring collaborations and contributions by members of Gnod, LoneLady and an array of other experimental musicians, it is the sound of blunted beats, stripped electronics and flares of melody, which coruscate around a deep emotional centre; words, that address a world, shifting, breaking, Vanishing.
Paddy Shine of Gnod is the most consistent contributor to Vanishing’s stark sound world, offering unused materials from his archives that were re-contextualised and carefully re-scored into the foundation of differing atmospheres chronicled on the albums 8 tracks. The original sources have been carefully re-contextualised, offering at times minimal tenderness, at times beautifully orchestrated passages, arranged and structured by Smith, to fit around his impassioned prose.
It is a prose that addresses a complex identity, both beautiful and brutalised, working through a plethora of difficult themes ranging from isolation, claustrophobia, social and political disenfranchisement. ‘As the recording process developed I realised I had created a musical platform to pursue the lyrical content to its fullest. This is the latest statement of my lifetimes work.’
Fitting right into the instantly identifiable heart of the Tombed Visions aesthetic, the album features a stunning, customised gatefold artwork printed on 300gsm recycled paper by Lewis McLean.
"One for those of you who hate dark ambient and everything that goes with it and maybe everything in the world: this record is made terrifying by Gareth Smith, known in his musical ghost form as Vanishing, plus a roster of guests of vampiric psychedelia from Paddy Shine (your boy of Gnod) and the excellent LoneLady. Get ready for noise to meet neo-classical to meet drone to meet random archival sounds as Smith disassembles the idea of soundscape.
For those who love Gnod, Paddy Shine’s contributions to this record are pretty remarkable: he’s taken old, stowed-away sounds of his past and re-contextualised them for Smith to intone his spoken word over, bringing anything from these samples to sax and programmed beats into the mix. Smith’s languishing synths and varying character performances make for a listen that’s either terrifyingly wide open or suffocatingly claustrophobic, the industrial-sized drone bursts of “The Forger” and Darren Kaskie’s dooming piano sounding like a death sentence in an empty landscape. The record ends up lying somewhere between the ominous soundscapes of certain Gnod records and the prickly mutterings of Einsturzende Neubauten. No doubt it barks up many of your trees."
- Robin, Norman Records
"Tombed visions newest beautifully crafted outing comes in the form of 'Vanishing', featuring Paddy Shine of Gnod fame and a host of talented and likeminded drone soldiers. 'Brighton' presents a softly spoken northern monologue draped liberally over a dark backdrop of chamber classical strings, gothic organ swells and earth-shaking percussion. Presented like dark ambient, but showing the grace of classical music and the melodic intonations of soaring post-rock buried under a shroud of gloom. As we move into 'Night Vision', the pensive vocal flourishes turn quickly into beastlike distorted whispering, while the percussion steps up a notch into syncopated distorted mayhem, gating airy swells and cavernous basses into an amalgamation of industrial and electronic influence.
Moving further along and 'The Forger' is once again led by a bleak spoken monologue, but the backing has progressed into an echoic chamber of lengthy plate verbs applied to squeaks of noise and what sounds like train sounds, all underpinned by a heartfelt but shadowy piano refrain. 'Bronze Misnomer' threatens to break into full electronic meltown at any point, with droning feedback and Paddy's free-jazz sax noodlings providing relief to the stark electronic backbone.
It really is brilliant this one, it takes time to devlop and it demands your attention, turning from a noisy drone into a nuanced and impeccable ambient masterstroke with repeated listens. Bleak, bold and stunningly beautiful.
Barry says: Gloomy dystopian futurism and industrial rhythms, juxtaposed with striking classical instrumentation and beautifully visceral spoken word segments. It's drone for the uninitiated, classical for people who love a story. Brilliantly immersive and hypnotic, a winner."
- Piccadilly Records
"One of their strongest, widest appealing releases to date: Tombed Visions unleash the sepulchral invocations of Gareth Smith’s Vanishing - featuring members of Gnod and LoneLady concocting a proper midnight trip into scorched industrial scapes, given gravity and pathos by Smith’s impending, politicised lyrics. RIYL Ike Yard, Gnod, Einstürzende Neubauten"
"Vanishing is a project led by Hull-born and Manchester-based poet and musician Gareth Smith (who is, among other things, a regular collaborator with LoneLady). His music isn't as overtly obsessed with the coming collapse of civilisation as that of the Botanist, say, but it has been riven by millennial angst. (Smith has only talked in very general terms about how Vanishing is concerned with "alienation and claustrophobia"; about "this terrible feeling of dread"; and "the madness of the current time" but it seems to me that it could present a means for him to articulate extreme sensitivity to modern life, as this music jangles like a symptom of generalised anxiety disorder.)
On this debut album, released recently on Salford's Tombed Visions, he has created a cast of characters such as The Forger and The Cleaners, and to breathe life into them he does the police in different voices. His words come flowing dynamically out of him in an East Yorkshire accent as heavy and blunt as a cosh; a necrotic black metal shriek; a granular baritone drawl; a tremulous whisper that rises and rises towards an ever ascending note of anxiety ringing clear like a struck bell. And his words exit him like ten thousand cubic metres of silt, suspended in the garbage rich, caramel brown waters of the Humber flowing right out into the desalinated and mercury poisoned North Sea.
It’s not a particularly easy listen. But it is thrilling.
Vanishing by Vanishing, is on first listen heavily portentous, achingly pompous, grindingly dour and massively out of step with the current cultural times. Of the few who hear it, no doubt more will be annoyed than pleased by it; certainly more will find it wryly amusing rather than harrowing. It does however despite all this reveal itself on subsequent listens to be quite brilliant.
Vanishing is not an exploration of something that has already happened or something that is going to happen but something we are currently enduring. It is a sonic metaphor for how we are refusing to feel right now. The stab of panic late at night when anxiety stalks the hallway outside the door, when no amount of digital distraction will quell the thought, "What have we done?" Smith isn't saying what we're all thinking, he's saying what we're all desperately trying not to think.
Musically, this is a muscular and psychedelic mix of post rock, industrial, dark ambient, dub and other, less-easy to classify, fractured and cosmic sounds, provided mainly by Smith with Paddy Shine of GNOD. (Shine's bandmate Alex Macarte also turns up on synths at one point while Julie Campbell and Elizabeth Preston add a hint of Godspeed drama on cello here and there.) The churchical organ drones of ‘Brighton 84’, the brittle Suicide-beats of ‘Night Vision’, the nerve-jangling dub effects of ‘Fountain’, the future spiritual of ‘The Forger’ and the reverberant, agonising power electronics of ‘The Cleaners’ all thrill... ‘Bronze Misnomer’ is a quirky but threatening reboot of Jack Kerouac, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims’ Blues And Haikus from 1959. Behind all things is glitchy electronica like the sound of the machines stuttering and failing for the last time. Over all things is a scree of noise as long since abandoned buildings eventually crumble, undermined by encroaching plant life. If I have one major criticism of Vanishing it is that, like TS Eliot’s ‘Strawmen’, it whimpers out of existence instead of ending with a bang. On final track ‘Glacier’, the guitars - bum notes and all - meander aimlessly about the track and for once the music is not really a match for Smith’s simmering intensity. But perhaps this is an apt way to end proceedings.
Vanishing isn't going to change the way I vote. It's not going to affect the way I do my recycling. It's not going to make me join the Green Party. Listening to this album is not going to make me go and live in an island shack near the Hauraki Gulf. It isn't even going to make cross the room so I can turn the light off that's currently switched on needlessly in the hallway. But this album (along with the music mentioned by Langham Research Centre, the Botanist, Shellac and The Advisory Circle among many others) serves as a concrete reminder that there is respite to the cultural malaise created by late capitalism for those who are determined to seek it. It makes me think there is a glossary of effects begging to be written detailing how various literary techniques combine with certain musical processes to create dramatic new sonic spaces. And I'm not just talking about apocalypse music now, but songs about love, death and birth as well. Songs about cars. Songs about nightclubs. Songs about buildings. Songs about food. One really only needs to feel the surging connective potential when listening to something that doesn't sound quite like anything one has heard before, related from an angle one hasn't considered before - as infrequently as this may occur - to realise there is still everything left to fight for. Those who claim they've heard it all before? I lament their inability to see anything but the broadest of brushstrokes when the rest of us know the devil is in the detail. They say: "We're doomed! We're doomed!" I say: "Not a bit of it, there's enough hope left yet."
- John Doran, The Quietus
"Vanishing by Vanishing is released by a predominantly tape-based label, Tombed Visions, but comes as a CD in a swish A5 card sleeve whose size demands it be stored in its own nonconformist space. Or on the DVD shelf, if you have one. John Doran wrote about this rich, keening, despairing album on tQ recently, in the context of music that expresses or suits an apocalyptic mentality. This definitely has merit as a response: cello and piano parts swoop and ripple with a dignified sureness that belies the clusters of distorted synths and bonecrack digital snares. It’s built around an electronic skeleton, but is a long way from quote-unquote dance music. A tool for the peace-desirous post-club host to clear out the coming-down, perhaps.
An instrumental version of this album would be pregnant with unease, but the spoken, stony vocals of Gareth Smith – the main brain behind Vanishing – gives it a further dimension. Derived, almost certainly, from real and profound emotions (on ‘Fountain’, he sounds close to tears), Smith’s targets are generally opaque, to be interpreted by each listener differently. The title of ‘Brighton 84’ presumably references the IRA bombing, but the lay listener would do well to pinpoint specifics in its imagery of (inverse?) nostalgia and cold inhumanity. At its harshest, ‘The Cleaners’, tangible layers of slow, grinding noise move across each other as Smith’s bellicose vocal goes through the FX mincer; it’s not a mile away from the latest Pharmakon album. Elsewhere – not on specific songs per se – I get a passing sense of Barry Adamson, Third Eye Foundation and Massive Attack circa Mezzanine.
As well as being a majestic statement, Vanishing stands as testament to the strength of the Manchester underground at present. Smith’s right-hand man here is Gnod’s Paddy Shine, the two having both been members of pre-Gnod group Stranger Son Of WB, with Julie ‘Lonelady’ Campbell among a cast of other adept locals."
- Noel Gardner, The Quietus
released March 31, 2017
Gareth Smith – vocals, synths, piano, percussion
Paddy Shine – beats, samples, piano, spring reverb, synth, saxophone, guitar
Elizabeth Preston – cello on track 1
Julie Campbell – cello on track 3
Alex Macarte – additional synth on track 3
Darren Kaskie – piano on track 4
Karl Sveinsson – additional guitar on track 8
all tracks recorded and mixed by Vanishing
and Karl Sveinsson at Queens Ark
mastered by Danny Saul
graphic design by Lewis McLean
Tombed Visions is a Manchester based cassette label specialising in sound art, ambient music, experimental electronics and
improvisation and aims to showcase the fringes of contemporary independent music. All releases are limited edition and packaged with care, combining a love of graphic design, photography, typography with the wondrous sounds released....more