Evening Chants

Nicolas Snyder - Spell of Remembrance

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Melding organic textures, field recordings and cinematic tendencies, composer and producer Nicolas Snyder’s second record, Spell of Remembrance, is a spiritual pilgrimage through universal memories, crafted in dialogue with the Earth, pink skies and lives forgotten.
 

Leaving behind the deliberate stasis of his 2020 debut ‘Temporary Places’, the Los Angeles producer’s first record on Evening Chants is a spiritual embrace of spontaneity, searching for spaces of dreamlike mutation. “For me, this album is about transformation,” Snyder says about the album. In multiple ways, the record embodies transformation in concept and production, which was adopted and facilitated by the producer’s stream-of-consciousness compositional approach and emphasis on visceral sonics. The result marks Snyder’s most meticulous and dynamic work: twelve serpentine tracks that morph in ever-constant flux – at once crackling with life and unpredictability via percussive timbres and juxtaposed organic textures, while simultaneously forming a deeply meditative whole, full of vivid scenes tinged with ghostly nostalgia and spiritual sorrow.

 

Drawing on his background as sound recordist, Snyder conducts the record’s sonic dialogue in both organic and synthetic modes – a deliberate interplay by the producer between nature and technology. Snyder embodies this dialogue in the record’s rhythmic elements, constructed from manipulations of frog croaks, buckets, and chair creaks, to an array of self-dubbed “thups” – intimate recordings of plucked roots and branches, of which Snyder has built libraries of over thousands. Establishing these unconventional foundations as the record’s musical premises, conventional instruments form modes of subversion: jazz snares appear on ‘Neem Treatment’ against elegant string ostinatos, only to break into industrial clamor; while on other tracks, virtual dulcimers collide with digital artifacts; and Armenian flutes meet manipulated pianos.

 

These contradictions, although seemingly jarring, are reconciled by the record’s fluid kineticism, which deliver micro-movements of cinematic beauty – influenced by Snyder’s film background. On opener and first single ‘Veil of Forgetting, Mother’, rain, clarinets and blissful glissandos unspool the record’s sonic tapestry in spring-like bloom, before being disrupted by the flickering ‘Fresh Memory’, a percussive glitch-collage of feedback and resonant kalimba-like stabs. Meanwhile, on ‘Beekeeper, Lover’, the producer draws equally from childhood anecdotes and films such as Spirit of the Beehive – resulting in a striking moment of vivid romanticism, colored by delicate pizzicato and sweeping violins. “I was striving for a certain elegance, prioritising textures over extending ideas,” the composer comments on his compositional approach, a delicate sensibility inherited from ECM Records artists including Eberhard Weber and Stephan Micus. 

 

In forming these collages, Snyder’s scavenging – a tendency the producer inherited from his mother – bridges his work’s sonic and spiritual centers. While serving as modes of timbral diversity, they also become windows into different lives, marks revealing memories lost and rediscovered through serendipitous encounters. Found sound centers these narratives across Spell of Remembrance, as the composer injects new lives into forgotten and rediscovered recordings – ranging from rehearsal tapes found at estate sales (‘Perfect Craft’) to abandoned voice notes from Snyder’s failed projects. “These songs are little snippets of time, sewn together like a quilt. What was a failing that I gave up on when I was 32 can now become something new at 35 – everything is malleable and full of potential in that way,” Snyder explains about these recordings. 

 

Spell of Remembrance’s title track embodies these amalgamations across time. Backdropped by a reverie of reverberated voices and drifting horns – the latter of which discovered by Snyder hiding in 1960s tape reels abandoned on EBay –  a glitched voice calls out to a pink sky. The image is a metaphor for the record’s spiritual search for images beyond Snyder’s personal nostalgia – at once seeking to reach for universal experiences that transcend individual memories, while also examining the liminal spaces that lie between accessing them. “Deep down, there is some need to remember a zero point of our consciousness that informs all of our experiences,” the composer says. The record, in turn, forms a study of scenes both surreal and hyperreal, its opener embodying an example: “I wanted it to sound like a Jans Gabarek sax lick, seen through the timescale and frame of an insect,” he notes. 

 

Snyder expands these concepts of transcendental memories on a tailor-made poem, which the producer dubs the record’s metaphoric libretto. In its verses – designed to correspond with the album’s individual tracks – visions of the producers’ childhood memories spent in rural Pennsylvania intertwine with imaginary scenes, situated in both scorched worlds far in the future and mundane memories of road trips and neighbourhood Targets. “I envision listeners floating through different reincarnations as if they were dream states, finding pieces of memories along the way,” the composer shares about his interpretation of the record. 

 

In traversing these experiences across lives, much of Spell Of Remembrance’s tracks form matching seances, illuminating these transformations via their textural metamorphosis. Reverberant bells and chimes punctuate ‘Toll Bell’ in hypnotic repetition, catching spirits drifting through saxophone and clarinet flourishes; lingering wurlitzers meet brass loops on ‘Pollinator’, glowing in a gently contemplative recollection; resonant pianos and Armenian flutes mark the ritualistic summonings of ‘Merchant’, with rustling textures rising through the track’s spaces; luminous synths and delicate keystrikes accentuate ‘Perfect Craft’’s ghostly sampled violins, culminating in melancholic oceans of sound; strings on ‘Walking, Knowing’ invite seemingly mournful tension, before glowing crescendos and manipulated vocal samples on ‘Dream Annotation’ close the record in a haze of suspended denouement.

 

In the face of overwhelming universal constants – from death to environmental destruction – Snyder’s emotive compositions seem to transcend them as concerns in their ever-evolving modes, seemingly acknowledging their presence as events in a continuous chain of being. In deriving surreal textures from our adjacent worlds, Spell of Remembrance’s whole seeks not mere recollection, but the uncovering of a discovery that transcends divides in experiences, beautiful or mundane: “In life, we are a divine being hurtling through this experience,” the producer comments. Ultimately, the record’s explorations of memory are searches seeking to summon something far greater, yet deeply achievable: the recollection of one’s personal divinity.