Back in 2018 experimental composer Britton Powell came together with cellist Lucy Railton and producer Brian Leeds, perhaps best known as Huerco S., at Gary’s Electric Studio in Brooklyn, New York. Over the course of a number of exploratory sessions Powell presented the group with a collection of compositional sketches, each centred around multi-tracked electronics and recorded acoustic percussion.
Taking these sketches as a starting point, the three musicians then began adding to Powell’s sonic scaffolding with instinctive, improvisational playing, with Railton on cello and electronics and Powell and Leeds working in tandem on laptops. It was out of this period of experimentation and improvisation that Pilled Up on a Couple of Doves was borne, a collection of recordings edited, distilled and collaged together over the course of the next two years.
Finding a home on Shelter Press, released under the group moniker PDP III, the project sees three singular talents working in dialogue with each other, moving through diaphanous textures and murky low end with fluid notions of mood and feeling as their guide. By exploring a more emotional and meditative approach to composition, the group find themselves in unexpectedly introspective territory. “I don’t think the three of us had any idea how heavy and physical this thing was going to feel,” says Powell.
“One thing that’s important in relation to my work with music is to access a place outside of physical space,” says Powell. “To pursue music as a tool to reach a place outside of physical existence.” During the record’s ominous finale, ’49 Days’, snatches of eerie strings swirl into the ghostly reverberations of cymbal and a gong, diffused into thick electronic fuzz that is equal parts anxiety-inducing and transcendent. The liminal space we allow PDP III to guide us through is certainly dark, but it’s also a space in which one’s emotional response to sound is keenly felt, amplified back at you as part of the intricate fabric of the composition.
Filmmaker Drew Hagelin contributes a fittingly abstract visual accompaniment, realising a concept devised by Powell with layered projections and slowly shifting editing. Dark ripples and silhouettes fold into each other in gently lysergic patterns, a technicolour filter picking out areas of light defined starkly against shade in a process that mimics the act of listening for recognisable acoustic forms amidst discordant electronics.
Concept – Britton Powell
Projection, Camera and Editing – Drew Hagelin
Britton Powell – Electronics, Percussion (40” Sabian Gong, Cymbal), Upright Bass
Lucy Railton – Cello, Electronics
Brian Leeds – Electronics & Samples
Al Carlson – Engineering
Gabriel Schuman – Mixing & Mastering
Source: Fact Magazine