Signals Under Tests – Nascent

LISTEN

Track List

1 - nascent
2 - selah i
3 - axon
4 - selah ii
5 - keep me (143)
6 - selah iii
7 - quiet arcs
8 - selah iv
9 - axon (reprise)
10 - selah v
11 - kapelle
12 - selah vi
13 - ebb and flow

Signals Under Tests - Nascent

Richard (Ricky) Graham is a highly inspired and enthusiastic musician and music producer originally from Northern Ireland, now based in the USA. His music productions encompass everything from ambient to experimental to progressive music. Graham has toured extensively throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and US promoting various music releases since 2006, recorded various sessions for BBC radio, and his productions have featured on regional and national TV & Radio. Ricky has been involved with a multitude of music festivals and performance events, sharing the stage with Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC Radio 1) and Boxcutter (Planet Mu) in 2008, and electronica legend, Ulrich Schnauss in 2009. Graham completed his Ph.D in music in 2012. The same year, Graham joined Fluttery Records family.

signalsundertests is Graham's sonic playground, beginning life as a collaborative project with fellow artisan, John King. Since 2008, Graham has developed the signalsundertests project to attend to the effects of interactive music technology on music performance, resulting in a series of collaborations with a conglomeration of contrasting artists.

“Nascent” features a series of ambient guitar-based musical works. The pieces seek to interrogate the increasingly polyphonic nature of the solo performing electronic guitarist. The disc features a series of refined live improvisations through production techniques. The live recordings were produced with hardware and software developed by Graham. The album features collaborative efforts from Irish Composer, Michael Andrews, and American Vocalist, Laura Graham. Dublin-based producer, Philip Byrne, mastered the disc. The artwork is by Tennessee-based Artist, Jon Kenney. Overall, this album has resulted from a positive musical experience, which Graham calls his best work, thus far.

signalsundertests produce sound sculptures; and they talk to you, as if they were communicating directly to your face. There are plenty of drone, ambient / electronic(a) musicians out there, but not many produce music with bespoke music software and hardware developed by themselves.

Guitar Player Magazine says: "The brainchild of Northern Irish experimental guitarist, Ricky Graham, in collaboration with composer and tape-wrangler, Michael Andrews, this music began as a series of improvisations created utilising looping and processing software and polyphonic guitar hardware developed by Graham, and was later refined into its present form. Unlike other "drone" and "atmospheric" music, it possesses a subtle evocative and majestic quality reminiscent of masters such as Brian Eno, Michael Brook, and Robert Rich."

REVIEWS

Pretty in Noise

“Splendid Minimalism”

“Ambient solo guitar. One could describe this genre as long, atmospheric pieces or soundscapes, performed live by a single guitar and a large catalog of audio effects devices, especially Loop Stations; allowing guitarists to coax a simple guitar into an equally large catalog of different sounds and to develop an epic in its entirety. This is very much the case of the collaborative album, 'Nascent;' offering thirteen pieces presenting atmospheric sound passages that Graham creates with the use of proprietary hardware and software tailored for a specific purpose. The album is promoted by the label, 'Fluttery Records' as a musical release developed through the refinement of a series of live improvised performances. Here, the question arises, how much of the album is live and how much is post-production, how many guitars and how many computers can now be found on the album? The album itself can be described as light, drone-based, ambient, transparent; echoic guitars strumming gently and gracefully in the foreground. The album somehow conveys water; sometimes clear and cold, sometimes rippling, sometimes swift, elusive, ever-changing. The first four tracks maintain a minimalist, albeit epic soundscape feel, when suddenly the fifth piece, 'Keep Me (143),' plunges into ambient realms using only a subtle bass line, female vocals and a few bit-crushed rhythmic elements - and this approach makes it a very good piece. The fragile, detached mood, obtained by this subtle but very stylistic piece definitely stands out in a positive way. There could have been more quiet moments to follow, but instead the album builds again into instrumental, minimalist sculptures, synthesized and modulated sounds, stacked layer-on-layer. Overall, it is a difficult album to further describe precisely in its entirety without time and the same hackneyed terms. However, one is presented with splendid minimalism, which can lift you with its bright, clear and transparent sound. One hears a high level of layered sounds and maintained sound sculptures, but everything is still sophisticated enough that nothing is sinking into the mud of a drone.”

Sea of Tranquility

"This is relaxing ambient, electronic guitar music which works perfect magic early in the morning for sunrise or late in the afternoon for sunset. The album is full of soft, elegant textures of guitar which sooth, calm, and relax you, taking your mind off of the busy work day ahead or behind. Perfect for relaxing with headphones on and nowhere to go. It has become an essential part of my morning routine. All of the tracks are full of interesting and wonderful variations on a theme, but Laura Graham's vocals on 'Keep Me (143)' certainly added a nice warm variation to the soundscape. 'Quiet Arcs,' 'Kapelle,' and 'Ebb and Flow,' are also album highlights."

Guitar Player Magazine

“The brainchild of Northern Irish experimental guitarist, Ricky Graham, in collaboration with composer and tape-wrangler, Michael Andrews, this music began as a series of improvisations created utilising looping and processing software and polyphonic guitar hardware developed by Graham, and was later refined into its present form. Unlike other "drone" and "atmospheric" music, it possesses a subtle evocative and majestic quality reminiscent of masters such as Brian Eno, Michael Brook, and Robert Rich" - Barry Cleveland

ATTN: Magazine

"The most immediately satisfying element of 'Nascent' – which appears to be the first widely available full-length from signalsundertests – is that it can operate comfortably as one start-to-finish listening experience. Such focus feels like the aftermath of laying every aspect of his musical persona before himself via 'Mecca;' now aware of which areas are most worthy of pursuit, he can take to each with a reinvigorated assurance. 'Nascent' is, to use a broadly encompassing term, an 'ambient' work, with the rhythmic element virtually ditched entirely in order to place emphasis on texture design and looser, cinematic narratives. There’s some good stuff here. Some of the album evokes gigantic arctic caverns, in which sounds shimmer as glints of light catching on the ice. Other times a likeness to the depth and solitude of a space voyage feels more appropriate, as thicker swells of synthesizer chord rush up from beneath and pour in from the sides; guitars crackle into nothing like dying stars, with their slow-motion decay left to reverberate to the edges of the daunting imaginary stereo stretch. 'Kapelle' stands out as a particularly engrossing moment, with electronics stuttering like drips of motion on a placid lake of drones. Meanwhile, closing piece 'Ebb and Flow' lets feedback see-saw between pitches as a central wave of distortion drives forth and then recedes, with smaller streams of static breaking off and lapping up elsewhere" - Jack Chuter, 2012.

Post Rock.de

'Nascent' is the new album by Ricky Graham (signalsundertests). Released in December, 2011 the Northern Irishman attempts to create the 'Mount Olympus' of the 2011 releases in the experimental genre. What he had set out to do... has been accomplished. 'Nascent,' is described in a press release as an 'ambient album;' but it is much more than that. The opener and title track of the album shows that 'Nascent' is not just about ambient space, because what you hear here are clean guitar melodies that delicately create a framework that arises from ambient sounds. 'Selah I' is the first of six songs on this eponymous release, which are lined up between the other songs that can be understood to act both as a bridge and as separate tracks. 'Axon' surprises with herbaceous prog-rock guitar themes that go hand-in-hand with experimental soundscapes. After the drone track, 'Selah II,' one is surprised by 'Keep Me (143)' with rhythmic 'trip-hop' sounds and female vocals. And while you think about it, whether you like 'Keep Me (143)' at this point in the album or not, the song dissolves into guitar drone-based surfaces and merges with the previously included sounds of the album. 'Quiet Arcs' presents increasing clouds with the sound of 'wah-wah' guitar that would be placed well in a tough rock song. 'Prog-Ambient' could be an appropriate name for the overall sound, if you had to give the child a name. In any case, 'Quiet Arcs' presents furious howling guitar noise walls. 'Axon Reprise' does continue where 'Axon' left off, only that the reprise version is much more alive and evolved into a sublime storm of bright sounds that dissolves into quiet 'Geknirsche' (creaking, rasping noise). 'Chapel' (Kapelle) flows with electric guitar sounds, like sounds that lie on the path of the river. 'Selah' rears up on its sixth and final time and paves the way for 'Ebb and Flow,' which as the title promises, the final piece presents drones that compete against ambient low tide and a beat creeps into the mix again. Ricky Graham's 'Nascent' manages to create what few can: he has produced a sound of his own and combined it with contemporary sounds and old-fashioned electric guitar themes. The road to 'Mount Olympus' is not far; an album that not only will appeal to drone and ambient fans but also friends of Pink Floyd or King Crimson.”

Unruhr/Black Online Magazine

“Sometimes there is no such thing as the limitations of words. 'Nascent' is such a case. The new, second album of signalsundertests (aka Richard Graham from N.Ireland) designs a whole universe of gleaming surfaces, subdued noise, naked guitar lines and corroded tails. A (female) voice and the presented ambient musical systems are enhanced by low-frequency pulses, and all this works without one of these elements dominating the album; instead, they act as natural parts. A drone track like 'Quite Arcs' is 'par-rode-force' (rode by strength). 'Pop appeal' perhaps is the best description for what makes 'Nascent' so seductive, but a 'pop-appeal' that penetrates only one of many elements of the music, never superficial, and coupled with a surprising facility of musical arrangements of tracks for the right balance in order to create a coherent record. In spite of such a sound spectrum, and in spite of the complexity of the arrangements and its mix of long, almost fragmentarily short pieces, 'Nascent' produces a continuous flow; the (dynamic) correlation holds. A masterpiece. The final track "Ebb And Flow" sums it all together again in just under 8 minutes” - Hellmut Neidhardt

Mescaline Injection

“Academic Electronica”

Electronic music of academics - No, this should not be understood ironically as it is not so rare. One might consider Englishman, Peter Green, for example, and his 'Acid-classic' collaboration with Mike Dred, which has received numerous awards and international critical acclaim. SIGNALSUNDERTESTS is Northern-Irishman, Ricky Graham, who has completed his doctoral thesis this year. Electronic music is seemingly attractive for most musicologists, even though it can often produce musical works that are completely pointless as they are ridiculous. But sometimes there are exceptions to this rule, such as Graham, who is immersed in his latest work, 'Nascent,' for more than an hour, presenting a variety of sound structures.

Ambient environments are explored here, for himself and the audience. Synth textures, subtle melodies, intimate arrangements but also some very special acoustic structures. Graham has the courage to produce exciting moments of contemplation. 'Nascent' also affords the rare luxury of an extended dynamic range, discouraging the listener to simply listen with cheap headphones. The album's experimental design is still very accessible, providing very delicate details that unfold beauty like a flower in fast motion. For example, 'Selah IV' and 'Axon (Reprise)' present sparkling synths to be gradually joined by a filling, warming primer. 'Nascent' pursues no defined (conventional) musical structures as such, the tracks on the album are therefore difficult to distinguish from one another. Instead, everything fits together, fragments exploding into more fragments, which together make a whole.

Ambient fans can be sure that 'Nascent' will be a really exciting journey. 'Nascent' is in the class of musical works that functions successfully just by itself without the need of accompanying visual stimuli. And when 'Nascent' creates figurative imagery with the one outlier track with female vocals, 'Keep Me - 143,' it still creates a positive effect.

Absolute Zero Media

I know Fluttery records seems to be very post rock and ambient music all the time but this one seems a bit different to me . Its much more experimental ambient industrial/ soundscape in the way the over all sounds are created reminds me more of the Minimalist Neoclassic Industrial that CMI, Manifold and Dark Vinyl use to release and the lighter side of what Malignant does. Signalsundertests has a very Caul, Sephiroth and Raison D Etre feeling to it. I maybe just hearing what I want but this time out I would say "Nascent" maybe my favorite album on Fluttery at this point. They remind me so much of Mandible Chatter as well. That is a band I truly miss. They were so ground breaking and this is helping fill that void. Stellar release.

The Four Oh Five

The now US-based artist doesn’t shed a traditional light to ambient music with this release; the drifting single-note synth pads serenely blazing through the foreground, like Eno’s Evening Star, or Aphex Twin's 'Rhubarb'. Graham efficiently applies his guitar skills in an electronically altered fashion – with software he created – and merges it with a Berlin School atmosphere.

Fortunately, the eerie, interval 'Selah' pieces are not dead-ringers of Edgar Froese’s projects, or Klaus Schulze. There's an accumulation, however. Schulze’s 1972 classic Irrlicht conjured up a portal of heavy drone and a Trainspotting ambiance, summoning this K-hole effect, imaginably. Similarly, but not negatively, Graham's sufficiency is duly presented as it is inevitable that the production wasn’t overworked or forceful. Laura Graham's vocal performance in the neo-storm opus 'Keep Me (143)' offers a serendipitous surprise, seeing that it is the sole vocal track on the 63-minute album. Swayed with gurgling rhythmic electronics, her serene exhibit provides a subtle and satisfactory balance in the overall mechanism, reproducing the near-perfect ambient silence.

The recent Ph.D graduate finely finishes the release with the suitably titled 'Ebb And Flow', forming a slick junction of various ambient mannerisms; from space, Robert Fripp ambient, to a Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972 drone. It is an environmental grouping of dark sounds that is delightfully arranged to suit the night-time listener.

Beach Sloth

Signalsundertests shifts constantly. One moment you could be in perfectly mellow ambient territory. The next moment a sudden wave of distortion could pummel you. ‘Nascent’ is a lot of fun that way. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, there’s more to come. Part of this effect comes from the sheer length of some of these tracks. The other part of this effect comes from Signalsundertests work with other composers, both in terms of space and melody. Richard clearly knows about space as the sound appears to nearly swallow the listener whole. While it moves forward it never loses sight of the melody, whether it is delivered by a twang of a lonely guitar or by fast-moving pulses.

‘Axon’ and ‘Axon (reprise)’ provide some of the strongest moments. On these pieces Richard goes from lonely sounds to absolutely ferocious environments. On the ‘Axon (reprise)’ Signalsundertests veers towards violent shoegaze. ‘Keep me (143)’ takes a different approach. Here there is a clear influence from Raster Noton’s clean edited sounds, specifically Alva Noto and Byetone’s works. This is the only song with vocals. My favorite piece by far has to be the insane ‘Selah ii’. Here is where Signalsundertests goes very far out. An ever increasing volume is accompanied by a brooding guitar which blasts away from the rest of the album. For me this is the most intense and enjoyable track on the entire album.

I like the mix between quiet and loud. Thanks to the emphasis on melody Air remains engaging on an emotional level as well as a physical one.

Caleidoscoop

Growing international label Fluttery, where one after another hit on experimental post-rock and neo-classical fields appears, comes up with the new CD of signalundertest's nascent. This is the alias of Richard "Ricky" Graham, who were among more educated on Amsterdam's STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) and also his doctoral field of music has achieved. The Northern Irishman now living in America releases his first studio album after several digital releases, the light shows. He uses his main instrument the guitar with electronics and homemade software (probably from his STEIM period). He explores this interaction between the various instruments and music technology. It provides full melancholic pieces (guitar) ambient, diluted with drones, glitch, idm and electronic music. It concerns the various effects of the necessary depth and strangeness. The album title refers to the birth, but that there must be an extraterrestrial origin. The music is rather elusive because of an unearthly beauty and strength. Occasionally the fine bittersweet voice of Laura Graham to hear that the music here is less abstract and earthy and almost trip-hop toward the destination. For the rest you get dark, psychedelic, fast-paced and evocative soundscapes that are not immune. Think of a cross pollination of SubstractiveLAD, SETI, Brian Eno, Biosphere, Yellow6, Ricard Skelton and Celer. An absorbing and fascinating splendor album.

FLTTRY040
Release Date: May 26, 2012
© Fluttery Records

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