raven: the night is dark, the night is silent, the night is bright, the night is loud

Scott Wallace
5th Oct 2017

Far more than the daytime, we try to transform the night. We try to light it up, we try to prolong it or shorten it, we give our imaginations and our fears substance from the darkness. the night is dark... the new record entirely performed by Tangents cellist Peter Hollo as raven is not so much about the ever-changing nighttime, as it is the night. This collection of ominous and restless pieces is like bottled darkness.

Ostensibly a neo-classical release, but heavily influenced by ambient and industrial music, folk, and even breakbeat electronica, the night is dark... finds Hollo exploring the full range of his main instrument. This is a somber record, but its tone colour finds Hollo working with deep, rich blues and purples, offset by only touches of inky black or scorched greys. raven's music is so evocative that it is best described in visual terms.

"lockstep" opens the album on a hypnotic, undulating groove; A plucked bass line gently raps at the relatively serene surface of bowed strings. By the time the ten-minute "descent" begins the album's very impressive middle section, an air of whispering, perhaps deceptive, tranquility has been created only to be torn apart. "descent" is dirty, marked by a half-subsumed roar that seems to wrestle with the distant strings and piano that form the rest of the piece. 

Interiors and exteriors - comfort and the unknown - are juxtaposed brilliantly in "vale." Urgent plucked strings form an almost delirious counterpoint with high, detached accompaniment reminiscent of composer Arvo Pärt's devastatingly quiet work. Into this tableau, field recordings of a thunderstorm, along with stray sounds of domesticity, intrude as if the listener were moving between dreams and consciousness.

Even on more subtle, pensive pieces like the swirling "faces," or the glittering, creeping "untethered," there is a fascination with dynamism and texture. Hollo's bass is both rhythmic and melodic, adding forward propulsion to pieces that may otherwise simply drift. That forward momentum leads to moments of drama and fright and in a way the night is dark... plays like the soundtrack to a psychological horror movie - from the quietly ominous beginning, to the sinister "infestation," to its emotional "end" (a reframed reprise of how it begins).

Like its lengthy title suggests, the night is dark... is a cohesive collection that works as one sustained piece, but finds enormous variation within the framework of tone and mood that Hollo sets up so effectively from the beginning. The distorted folk dance "copra" begins the final, beautiful act; No matter how we try (or fail) to tame the night and the feeling it evokes in us, the sun will always rise. 

the night is dark... is out on CD and digital formats on Thursday October 12th.