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Abul Mogard, "Kimberlin"

cover imageThis has been an unusually eclectic and prolific year for Abul Mogard, as he has followed up his first ever remix album (And We Are Passing Through Silently) with his first ever soundtrack album in the form of Kimberlin. On paper, the transition from Mogard’s usual fare into soundtrack territory makes a lot more intuitive sense than turning him loose on deconstructing Äisha Devi jams, but his innovation in bridging that stylistic gulf was a large part of why Passing was such an absolute left-field delight. The pleasures of Kimberlin are arguably bit more modest by comparison, as it falls into more expected aesthetic terrain and feels more like an EP than a full-length (by Mogard standards, anyway). In terms of quality, however, it does not fall at all short of his usual level of sublime mastery, culminating in a final slow-burning epic that can hold its own against any of his previous work.


Abul Mogard does not seem like an artist who embarks upon any project lightly, nor does he seem like someone who would feel comfortable releasing (or associating himself with) middling or uninspired material.Consequently, it is not surprising at all that his first film-related project is quite an intriguing one.Kimberlin is a 24-minute experimental film by Duncan Whitley set on the English isle of Portland.In the local dialect, "kimberlin" is term for an outsider or stranger living on the island and Whitley notes that the film was made in the wake of the UK's decision to leave the European Union, so the idea of "the other" is presumably a guiding theme.Lamentably, I have not seen the film (it debuted at Café Oto last month), but I suspect it delves into something considerably more fascinating and mysterious than mere provincial xenophobia, as Whitley was drawn to the island by the discovery of "an underground cinema cavern" and the canisters of super 8 film inside it.Naturally, a central focus of the film is speculation about who could have been behind such a curious and secretive endeavor, but the tone of the soundtrack is largely a bleakly beautiful one that seems inspired by the island itself.The music has a haunted and majestic feel that evokes a desolate, rocky, and windswept landscape that harbors disturbing secrets: if the unearthed canisters had turned out to be full of ghosts rather than film, Mogard would not have needed to change his score much at all.

The slowly swelling opener "Flooding Tide" feels like a return to some of Mogard's earlier work, as it unfolds as a brooding, murky, and roiling dronescape that seems to rumble up from beneath the earth.Or, based on its title, like a heavy tide rolling in to envelop a secluded path on a lonely coast.It does a fine job of setting the mood for the album (and presumably the film as well), but the three pieces that follow are the true heart of Kimberlin.The most immediately striking piece is the eerily beautiful "I Watched The See The Fields The Sky," which unfolds as a lazily seesawing melodic figure that feels mournful, mysterious, and corroded and leaves spectral, smoldering trails in its wake. The remaining two pieces are not quite as overtly melodic, but they maintain the same feeling of smoldering and undulating in slow-motion, like a bleary red sunrise slowly burning through a thick fog.

What they lack in melody, they more than make up for in elegantly controlled and simmering tension, as Mogard allows his swaying, throbbing, and frayed drones to organically unfold and steadily accumulate impressive depth and power.The 17-minute "Playing On The Stones" is especially mesmerizing and is probably the most perfect summation of Mogard's unique genius that I have heard to date.That does not necessarily mean that it is strongest piece that he has ever recorded (it is not, as competition is fierce).However, it is exactly the kind of piece that only he could have composed, as it displays a control, patience, and lightness of touch that verges on the supernatural.At its core, it is essentially just a single chord that lazily twists, quavers, and undergoes subtle textural transformations, yet it is nevertheless heavy as hell and so absorbing in its subtle dynamic evolution that I would happily allow it to continue increasing in power until my entire house shook and plaster rained from my ceiling.

It is no secret that I almost invariably find soundtrack albums to be exasperating and underwhelming regardless of how much I love the artist responsible, but I am delighted to report that Kimberlin has managed to transcend its intended purpose so seamlessly that all of my usual soundtrack caveats do not apply.In fact, I never would have guessed that Kimberlin even was a soundtrack if it had not been billed as such: it feels like a complete and fully formed work that stands on its own.Admittedly, a large part of that success is probably due to both Mogard's usual aesthetic and the fact that Whitley's film is an experimental/art film rather than a narrative one (which would have required drama and a wider palette of moods), but plenty of art films have forgettable soundtracks too.This one does not.The only real difference between Kimberlin and A Characteristically Great New Abul Mogard Album is essentially just the duration.The album is actually longer than the film it scores, yet it still ends too soon to feel like an entirely satisfying meal (though that probably could have been remedied by simply expanding "I Watched The Sea" to three times its current length).Given that, I would probably rank Kimberlin with the Maurizio Bianchi split as "not quite among the most crucial Mogard releases, yet disproportionately wonderful for an ostensibly minor release."Everything that I love about Abul Mogard's work is here, even if there is slightly less of it than I would have deemed optimal.No one can wring aching beauty and deep emotion from quiet simplicity like Mogard can and Kimberlin emphatically reaffirms that.

Samples can be found here.