Purge by Left Hand Cuts Off The Right

Release date: January 28, 2019
Label: Fractal Meat Cuts

Here’s a pleasing tape of steady, calming piano improvisations soaked in atmospheric sound processing. The sure and familiar footsteps of the piano guide us down echoing hallways of filtered field recordings and radio noise. Park us in a quiet, darkened room so still you watch the air motes turning in the leaking light.

Left Hand Cuts Off The Right is Robbie Judkins of Casual Sect in open ended ambient drone mode, exploring sound as process and as a form of therapy. In contrast to the gentle stillness of the music the back stories to these releases are dark and dramatic, last year’s Desired Place was made following a suicide attempt a few years before and this one during the recovery from a serious brain and skull injury in late 2017. The pieces here literally becoming more robust as he did “The process began with me needing to be still and quiet sonically and physically but as my health improved I could tolerate and work with distorted patterns, hiss and thuds”

Purge. Is this healing music then? It doesn’t possess that painkilling inner glow you might consider healing, no. It is not quite beautiful, not yet well again. Like the process of healing it is slow and not always comfortable. In particular there’s a piercing monitor tone that rises in the first half of ‘Keppra’ almost to the point of anxiety before the soft steady notes of the piano return to smooth things over. The track takes its name from an anticonvulsant drug, often used for epilepsy, and the difference between that and the more familiar valium haze of soft ambient warmth feels especially telling. Listening to Purge is calming, it slows the breath and quiets the mind, but I don’t think you’d drift off to sleep listening to it unless you were exhausted, the way you fall asleep in a waiting room chair.

Liminal is a word we love to use about this kind of music because it catches that edge of perception, hard to describe, thing and sounds smart with it. Here it feels truly appropriate considering Judkins’ concerns with the transitional state of recovery and the edges of physiological and psychological effect. First couple notes I made about this were ‘if Coil were a piano jazz trio’ and ‘Another Green World’. High praise if you ask me. If not entirely accurate. It was something about the title track that reminded me of ‘Another Green World’ but kind of down tuned and stretched out. The myth goes that Eno developed his ideas about ambient music while recovering from an accident. His girlfriend bought him a record of harp music but he found it was playing at a very low level through just one channel and he was too weak to get up and fix it, instead enjoying the way it mingled with the sound of the rain outside. Now, if she’d bought him something gentle by, let’s say Bill Evans, and maybe somehow put that on at the wrong speed as well? We might just find ourselves at the other end of the same ward.

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