reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
‘Nature is the ultimate composer’. This is the standout quote from Berlin-based Gareth Williams, aka Llyr, as he introduces his first full-length album Biome. Natural sounds are the first things we hear, the birds and monkeys of the Borneo rainforest making themselves known and setting the scene for Williams’ thoughtful piece of work.
For Biome is an environmental album as well as a musical one, split into two distinct sections called Pre-Anthropocene and Anthropocene. The first four tracks constitute an ambient celebration of nature and its many qualities, while the second group of four are disrupted by human involvement.
What’s the music like?
Llyr allows the field recordings to flow beautifully from the start, with minimal involvement from his own electronics, but he prompts the slight changes of mood with a natural instinct for structure. The sounds are lovely on headphones, the listener allowed to revel in the unhurried natural processes of the jungle. Particularly striking is the fourth track, Courtship Signal, where the mating calls of frogs in Kubah National Park are replicated and developed.
When the humans get involved the electronics come to the fore, and so do the dance beats. Llyr manages the crossover really well, and unleashes a form of primal energy through the kinetic Intrusion #509, the bubbling of The Hawthorne Effect and a rush of percussion on Interject, featuring Private Agenda, that sweeps all before it. Llyr uses this to show the chaos of the human imprint, having a good time but sweeping away the ambience that went before. Finally Encroachment powers to the finish, and we realise all the while that we have been held under the dense canopy of the forest. The white noise of the percussion enhances this effect.
Does it all work?
Yes. Biome is an imaginative look at the so-called developing world today, and its structure works really well. Essentially it is a sequence of natural ambience, followed by 25 minutes of busy dancefloor action, like moving between two stages in a forest festival.
Is it recommended?
It is. Electronics and field recordings can work together really well in the right circumstances, and this is definitely a case in point. Llyr makes a number of powerful observations about the state of the world today without ramming them down the listener’s throat, communicating them in a very musical way. This means Biome works on several levels, a journey in the truest sense of the word.