Matt Shoemaker
Spots in the Sun
CD HMS 008
January 2008

     This limited edition album explores the fine details of unidentifiable field recordings; each manipulated and tinkered with until all that is left is the ambient character of those sounds. As with all good concrete inspired works, the music here is far removed from reality but it is still almost tangible in a physical, solid sense. I just want to run my fingers along the music, strange as that sounds.
      It is remarkably cold-sounding music for an album called Spots in the Sun. Granted a sunspot is a relatively cold area of the sun but it is still an unimaginably hot and furious place. However, the grainy rumble of the opening piece lacks any sort of warmth or violence whatsoever. Here and throughout the album, spines of sound grow like crystals on a Petri dish rather than pulse and erupt like emissions from a star. The sound is almost microscopic in character.
      Although it is awfully Copernican of me to think that Shoemaker is referring to our sun; this could be his interpretation of light from distant stars. Indeed the huge feeling of space that his music evokes supports this notion. The pauses between sounds go so far beyond pregnant as to being stillborn. The elongated near-silences in the second piece make the shards of sound present in the piece loom imposingly over me. The long piece evolves slowly, the near-silences becoming scratchy cascades of sound and a variety of unusual and unexpected noises bubble and explode out of the mix. A weird, echoing segment of this piece sounds like some bizarre combination of fairground game and a tropical house in a zoo.
      The third and fourth pieces continue in the same vein. The idea does not wear thin because I am not quite sure what the idea is. The sound is constantly shifting, leaving no time for extended contemplation as to what the recordings may be or for the noises to become in any way tedious. There is always something that I had yet to notice going on, sometimes even what turns out to be the most dominant sound in terms of volume gets ignored in favour of the smaller sounds.
      It must be said that Spots in the Sun is not the sort of album that should be just put on in the background, I thought it was mediocre at best until I actually sat down and engaged with it. The curious blending of sounds makes for repeatedly rewarding listening experiences; there are so many little details that only total immersion reveals them. It is not a far cry from The Hafler Trio or Shoemaker's label mate Matt Waldron / irr. app. (ext.) .-- John Kealy