M Griffin - Fabrications
Artist: M. Griffin
Label: Hypnos Recordings
2008. Originally announced in 1997 as the follow-up by Hypnos founder Mike Griffin to his debut Sudden Dark, Fabrications has been reworked, abandoned, restarted from scratch, back-burnered, reimagined, and left frozen in carbonite. Among those who have followed Hypnos from the beginning, Fabrications achieved a certain notoriety as the album always promised for release in the coming year, which never quite arrived. 2008 is finally the year in which Fabrications is revealed, perhaps appropriate for the 10-year anniversary of its original planned release date, 1998.
Generally known as an ambient minimalist, utilizing synthesizers for most of his work, this time M. Griffin took advantage of "real world" sounds, captured with binaural microphones using a portable digital audio recorder. For this release, Griffin built up collages of numerous location recording elements, including cars driving on freeways, people walking in long echoing hallways, the ocean waves in Kona at night, a metalworking factory with heavy machinery crunching away, distant trains, and clothes driers. These elements were manipulated, combined, worked-on and re-worked, and overlaid with looped spoken elements later created by Griffin in the studio. The end result comes out something like the Zoviet France soundtrack to a David Lynch film, that is, a dark and dream-like collage of loops, spoken fragments, disembodied whispers, and the echo of far-off machinery.
While ambient music recordings generally only include a few "layers," Fabrications has been painstakingly built-up over the years so that all tracks are now comprised of dozens of layers, in some cases upward of 100. The result is incredibly complex, with ghostly remnants of real, concrete sounds filtered one against another. Aural signatures of many real places combine to form sonic impressions of a series of locations that do not really exist. These imagined, artificial locales are in effect, fabrications.
Track listing, with MP3 sample clips:
Water is Silver
Air Sense Space
Sky is Glass Lit
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Reviews"2008 Best of the Year List"
"A new album from Mike Griffin of Hypnos Records, more than 10 years in the making. Lots of processed field recordings with a drifty ambient sound. I hope we don't have to wait as long for the next one."
--Scott Raymond, WVKR radio
"This one was worth the wait. One of the most truly "ambient" recordings Hypnos has released, great listening for headphone-nauts. I've heard the third solo album will be coming out in 2018, so everybody should have lots of time to wrap their ears around these gorgeous micro-worlds of sound."
--"drone on" on the Hypnos Forum
"This is some gorgeously built, tripped out work! ...Vast, deep, and sounds lovingly well-crafted!! You have fashioned some dark ambient nectar of the gods..."
--"9dragons" on the Hypnos Forum
"It took eleven years for Fabrications to appear, having originally been slated for a 1998 release following Hypnos founder Mike Griffin’s debut Sudden Dark in 1997. In that period the entire work was reshaped and reworked several times, being tantalisingly close to appearing yet never actually emerging.
Griffin’s output of ambient and minimalist compositions on Fabrications takes sounds captured from field recordings and mixes them all together across six long length works. Though Griffin takes pride in the fact that no synthesized or non-acoustic sounds were used in the recording, it takes only a brief look at the title – Fabrications – to see that this ethos is somewhat problematic in examining the merits of the album. By taking all these sounds, be they of running water or late- night walks, capturing them on record somehow renders them as imitations of themselves. The sounds are real in that they have inevitably occurred, but they are copies in the true Walter Benjamin sense; copies that somehow lose the aura of the original.
Listening to ‘Air Sense Space’ brings this to mind, particularly due to the mixture of sounds. With the help of the liner notes acting as a rudimentary guide, lapping waves from the Pacific Ocean in Kona can be heard, along with the dull and constant ebb of an electrical transformer. The sounds exist and they feel as if they are completely believable, but they will always be one step removed from actual experience. It’s an eerie effect that makes the journey somewhat uncomfortable, despite the swathes of near-hypnotic ambience that permeate the recording.
Though the aural space is generally quite sparse, individual segments throughout the album are very dense. ‘Devise’ certainly feels like one of these pockets, with its layered, distorted voices gradually building upon themselves. These “collages”, as Griffin puts it, highlight the intensity of sensation that he is able to pull out of what would normally be commonplace sounds. Fabrications manages to create complex experiences out of copies and triggers sensation from replicas, which is a commendable achievement."
--Reviewed by Alexandra Savvides for cyclicdefrost.com
"If its gritty, grotty, granulated textures are anything to go by, Hypnos founder Griffin’s own long-in-the-tooth Fabrications, the follow-up of sorts to 1997’s Sudden Dark, hasn’t squandered its evolutionary arc. At least he puts his money where his mouth/sound is—virtually embodying the Hypnos gestalt, Griffin massages, coaxes, and exacts all manners of eerie sonic turbulence from natural, neé acoustic, sources. Other than signal processing, Griffin has abandoned “traditional” methods of aural mutation and frequency daubing in the realization of six elusive, often incorporeal, environments. Cliché is abandoned, too: rather than allowing the natural ebb and flow of liquids to generate tension, Griffin’s samples of ocean and waterfall on “Water is Silver” instead rubs its mercurial tide up against a ballast of corroded iron stirred within cloudbanks of disinterred reverb. Navigating us and his sounds through tunnels barnacled and wind-etched, Griffin’s fragmentary snapshots, depixellated, the emulsion bleached and stretched taut, require his nimble direction, and our fertile imaginations, to hammer them into tangible, if fleeting, shapes. A somnolent piece of hauntology such as “Devise” appears as if wrenched from a carnival of souls, its disembodied voices caught in EVP flux, just out of reach and trapped between dimensions thick with echo and (reci)process. As you may now glean, Griffin’s tactile soundscapes subvert the ambient model in no uncertain terms. He achieves a fitful balance between poles, neither Lull-ing his audience to sleep nor making them reCoil in abject terror, though exposed to the final cumulative 22 minutes that is “Sky is Glass Lit”—rife with a veritable catalog of extrasensory percolations, altering tableau, and ghost cadences—it’s clear Griffin’s aural fictions are the stuff of daymares rather than nightdreams, a threnody of compelling, edgy, anxious grimbience with precious few parallels."
--Reviewed by Darren Bergstein, eimagonline.com
"Fabrications, by Hypnos founder Mike Griffin, is a different animal altogether. Eschewing synthesizers and ambient minimalism altogether, Griffin's long-promised sequel to his Sudden Dark debut (originally planned for a 1998 release, Fabrications was re-worked, retired, and re-worked again over a decade) is essentially a collection of field-recordings-based collages. But it's no slapdash affair cobbled together in a weekend or two. Griffin meticulously assembled “real-world” recordings compiled from multiple locations—freeway sounds, ocean waves, factory machinery, trains, etc.—into the hour-long recording's six pieces, some of which contain upwards of one hundred layers. What most distinguishes the collection is that Griffin 's tracks are less collages than compositions. Though constructed from field elements, the material has been arranged with obvious care, resulting in tracks that are well-conceived wholes rather than streams of random sounds. Helping to unify the recording are the vocal sounds that appear in varying degrees of prominence throughout ( Griffin 's voice moves to the forefront in “Devise” where the entranced repetition of the track title alternates with low-level industrial flow). With so many different and manipulated sounds sharing a given piece's aural space, the material begins to feel decontextualized, as if it's inhabiting an artificially-generated spectral realm. Overall, gloomy ambiance pervades the work and the recurrence of phantom whispers, rustling noises, and droning tones calls to mind the work of zoviet*france. After five pieces of modest length, Fabrications ups the ante with “Sky is Glass Lit,” a twenty-three-minute outro that's like an alternately peaceful and unsettled dream state transcribed into aural form—a description that could just as easily be extended to the album as a whole."
--Reviewed by textura.org
"Very nice! A windblown stream of strange sounds and vocal fragments, very atmospheric, and never straying far from the Almighty Drone. Highly recommended ...and use your headphones!"
--"Joe R" on the Hypnos Forum
"Very dense spooky concrete atmospheres that remind me in places of mid-period Zoviet France, but without the emphasis on looping. Some industrial-like abstract sounds midway through, but nothing Merzbow harsh. Very nicely done."
--"ffcal" (recording artist Forrest Fang) on the Hypnos Forum
"Over a decade in the making, M. Griffin’s Fabrications CD is inventive ambience that challenges preconceptions of what constitutes “music.” Only processed field recordings are used, culled from a variety of unique settings, ranging from a Hawaiian beach to a steel sheet cutter. The end result reminds me of other experimental ambient recordings, such as harmonic vocals in a cistern or underwater ambience. Tones are deeply resonant, more like white noise than music, but strangely soothing. Although vocals are not mentioned as source material, I think I can hear some briefly, albeit unintelligibly, in “Water is Silver.” Mechanical churning and pulsing characterizes “Gravity,” and it sounds like being pulled into a vortex. If I had to guess, “Behind” would be the track that uses the steel sheet cutter, although most tracks have a sort of industrial feel at times, none more so than the hard, cold, darkness of the 23-minute closer, “Sky is Glass Lit.” This is a particularly deep dive into all things dark ambient, culminating in a narrative of some sort, though processing renders it alien in nature, which is perhaps the best way to describe this inventive adventurous album."
--Reviewed by Phil Derby, ElectroambientSpace
"Labelboss M. Griffin is also a musician and in the past he made some nice blueprints of ambient music. Looking at the cover, I suspected not much development, but that is not true. Gone are the days of the synthesizer and welcomed are the field recordings. From sounds from the ocean to footsteps in a tunnel and then towards a large electrical transformer, plus more, he collected them all, and transforms them using a bunch of software - all dully described on the cover of his release. Not that the music sounds radically different than his old work, but this new approach is kinda refreshing, I think. Somewhere in the back you can hear these field recordings coming a long, but they are well hidden in the grass that the music is. A field of sound, based of the sound of a field. Like much of this music there is only a few developments per track, but throughout has each piece a character of its own. Its good to see Griffin moving away from the world of synthesizer ambient and creating a similar kind of music with entirely new elements. As such this is a great disc. "
--Reviewed by Frans DeWaard, Vital Weekly
"It is getting ever more difficult to categorise or classify certain releases that come my way, with an increasingly growing core of artists that fuse a multitude of disciplines and genres, commentators like myself are struggling to slot these releases into neatly describable pigeon-holes. Very loosely M.Griffin is indeed a minimalist, maybe even an ambient artist that much is for certain, but his sound is not easily contained within any category of music as such, as the material here is sourced from field recordings..ok..so he is a field recording artist, but then he uses these field recordings and manipulates such sounds as steel sheet cutters, aircraft and ocean sounds, electrical transformers etc to create slightly angular ambiences..so he’s a musique concret artist as well..are you getting my drift? It seems as if my job is getting more difficult, and yet from a consumer’s point of view, I guess you just need to know what this all sounds like, right?
Well, not to be confused with the recent Chartier/Tietchens “Fabrication” release, Fabrications opens with Water is Silver - a dense, vaporous piece that draws upon all manner of ambiences, including looped, echoing voices, that nowadays sounds a little cheesy, and would have benefitted from being edited out of the final mix..but hey ho..it adds a little humanity as a reference point within this swirl of breathy ambience. Gravity is similar, using a bubbly central theme which then opens up into cavernous ambience, and once again..those little echoing voices creep into the mix.
By the time I get to half way into this collection, I’m getting a general feel for Griffin’s approach, and whilst the use of a variety of sources is admirable, a lot of the time, the ambience is washed out with endless reverb, and low- end sounds that detract from the beauty of the field recordings. If you are proudly declaring that “no synthesised or non-acoustic sounds” are present on the recording, then it seems strange that it is then made to sound just like it DOES have synthesised material on it..this a capably handled collection of works, but I feel that Mr Griffin could have pushed the beauty of his source material forward, and not over treating it would have yielded a more impressive result. Not earth-shattering..but well worth a second listen... and for all you old Isolationists out there, this will most definitely float your boat."
--Reviewed by BGN at http://whiteline1.wordpress.com/
"Loving Fabrications by the way- I was just reading a screenplay sent to me by an SF writer, and forgot that I had your cd on- It added such amazing ambience to my reading. The opening was on a deserted spaceship- and your tracks were just perfect- atmospheric and slightly creepy but not in a garish way, a really neutral, subtle way."
--Reviewed by Mirko Ruckels aka Deepspace
"This CD from 2008 offers 60 minutes of reprocessed environmental ambience.
All sounds on this album were derived from location recordings, like the Pacific Ocean, a steel sheet cutter, a waterfall, footsteps in a tunnel, a large electrical transformer, a jetliner cabin, running water, and a night-time walk on the beach. To achieve the music, signal processing was utilized. So...the tunes are harmonic constructions without peppy melodies of discernible rhythms.
The pieces are moody soundscapes, possessing environmental hints amid fogs of serene sounds. Textural layers undulate to achieve an atmospheric demeanor punctuated by additional tones and effects. Those additional elements maintain a soporific character, gentle and ephemeral, waves that cascade with languid substantiality.
These natural tonalities retain little of their original presence, having been transformed into a series of resonant aspects that exude an otherworldly disposition. The sounds drift like vaporous configurations, blending with each other to engender fragile oscillations. These oscillations waft with breathy delivery, generating an expansive aerial tide of softly roiling emanations.
A softly grinding (periodically rotary) sound provides an edgy undercurrent to some of the tracks, establishing an eerie presence.
These harmonic compositions are ethereal and often elusive. Their flow is evenly crafted with appropriate highs and lows generating an emotional mien. Example: the “Gravity” track, while airy and tenuous, exhibits a distinct sonic pressure that approximates weight. The delicate sensibilities embodied in this music are temperate and soothing, delivering an ambience rich with sedative properties that at the same time produce a subtle psychic invigoration."
--Reviewed by Matt Howarth at Sonic Curiosity