Record Reviews

Past Present, Below

The last time I heard Tom Hall, he was creating monolithic drone music in partnership with No Anchor’s Ian Rogers, under the name AXXONN. But this represented only one side of Hall’s broad musical practice. Since 2005, this Brisbane-based multimedia artist has released many solo albums and collaborative recordings, developed often in conjunction with images.

Past Present, Below – a digital-only release, available from Hall [direct]( – is the culmination of two years of world travel, during which he refined his ideas and mastery of recording techniques. While he predominantly works with computer-generated sounds, he also utilises sound sources such as vibraphone, keyboards, guitars and drums, as well as field recordings he made in such far-flung locations as Japan, Germany and his native Tasmania.

While there is a lot of theory to Hall’s experimentations, listening to these seven ambient pieces is a very peaceful and relaxing experience. He forgoes the harsher elements of AXXONN’s sound for calmly ebbing and swelling soundscapes that recall the feeling of being out in the open air. No mean feat for music that is largely synthetic.

Hall’s roots in the explorations of German electronic music pioneers such as Harmonia and Cluster are discernible, but he goes without their rhythmic pulses, taking a more gently flowing approach to his music. Much like the photographs that accompany this release, the music evokes the transitions from day to night in places where nature and the constructed environment intersect.

It is a music of fading light and cooling air, of that strange melancholy that comes with the onset of winter. Most clearly this can be heard on the track ?The Abnorm?, which almost sounds forlorn, with its minor key organ line and what sounds like rusted playground swings squeaking in a light breeze.

No matter what Hall’s music evokes for individual listeners though, it is deeply involving on a very personal level – the antithesis of electronic music’s reputation of being clinical and somewhat alienating. This is an experience well worth sitting still for.