Subtle Movements is a small masterpiece of sound and its processing. Working in the vein of acousmatic music, while completing her Master’s Degree in electroacoustic composition at the Université de Montréal, Freida Abtan has conducted a grand alchemical experiment- one lasting four years. In her words:
“There is a very real magic in the manipulation of sound. Hidden intricacies that might not be perceptible when a sound is ingested raw are rendered audible through processing. Samples take on the characteristics of the methods by which they are treated and become
indistinguishable from others only to regain their separate identities after careful filtering. My compositions follow the path forged by visual collagists: a unified beast created from shards of the mundane.”
This “unified beast” seems to be part chimera and part golem. Sometimes it staggers towards toward us with uncanny rumblings, other times it tickles the ear with intimate delicacy. While Abtan takes some points of departure from collaborator Steven Stapleton/ Nurse With Wound (who appears here on two exceptional tracks), she definitely stakes her own territory, a meadow where beauty and weirdness commingle. In a mode that suggests synaesthesia, her sound conjures unusual places, smells and sights. Subtle Movements is a musical potion designed to draw you into the Eighth Climate, stimulating your imagination as it caresses your quivering pineal gland. It is, by turns, exotic, erotic and awe-inspiring. Surrender to its magic; an unforgettable transmission from some distant oneiric outpost.
Download a copy of the review
from rough trade:
“based in providence, rhode island abtan’s subtle movements is possibly the most apt title for a record we have stumbled across this year. it is a fantastic record that showcases an artist who is totally on top of her game. her electro-acoustic, laptop based experiments are probably most closely akin to the work of maja ratke’s solo work for rune grammafon. cd only on united diaries.”
Abtan’s sounds are magical and transportive; their vivid fidelity and unequivocal crispness weave particular narratives with no small degree of confidence. From the beginning her work is organic, sounding less like music and more like the recorded adventures of an entrepreneurial and esoteric detective probing the deepest recesses of haunted caverns and finding hidden worlds tucked away there. In this way the title of her album reflects its content; that which is hidden, unnoticed, or too subtle is brought to the fore by Abtan’s careful arrangements and given a detailed survey. An entire spectrum of insectoid percussion and globular synthetics are revealed in her compositions, their microscopic lives brought to life by gusts of electricity and storming spirits trapped behind a veil of static and other interference. What Abtan does best on Subtle Movements is construct a believable world of sounds, each unique and absorbing in their various depictions. She’s captured the megalomaniacal rituals of a modern electrical shaman on tape, teased from the air the tortured confessions of a now reformed specter, and ploughed the ether in order to return a report of all its miniscule interactions.