Abstract Minimalism: Beneath These Idle Tides
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Canada, Music.
Sounds like: Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II & Stars of the Lid’s Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline.
Upon initial inspection of Beneath These Idle Tides’ MySpace page one might be underwhelmed, if only by the lack of a “pimped skin;” background information is non-existent, there are only two streaming tracks available, and a few archived gig posters are offered as the only evidence that there is actually a person, or persons, behind the music. Despite the minimal dazzle however, the two tracks capture the listener as they wade through a total of 11 minutes of ambiant brooding.
Although a Google search returns but a few articles, which date back to 2005, they do offer a name—Myke Atkinson—and a few details about what lurks behind these gloomy songs.
The University of Calgary showcased Atkinson with a cover story in an August, 2005 issue of The Gauntlet. In discussing Beneath These Idle Tides’ debut album, This Night Is For You, Peter Hemminger explained,
“The music, influenced by Mogwai’s emotional intensity, Set Fire to Flames’ atmospheric noise, and the patient minimalism of Constellation Records’ roster, is alternately somber and bombastic. The album crafts soundscapes with the glacial beauty equally reminiscent of the isolation of Antarctica and the buzzing menace of a dystopian future.”
That same month Fast Forward Magazine added,
“If you don’t have your stereo cranked there is a good chance that you won’t be able to hear the first two minutes of ‘She Holds a Piece of Me.’ The minimal feedback that slithers out of the silence might garner comparisons to early U.K. shoegazers or tonal compositions by an experimental composer.”
Keeping the heavy descriptions in mind, further evidence of the act’s sound is given by Archive.org, which hosts a set that was performed during the same month that the two articles were written, captured in Montreal as Beneath These Idle Tides toured across Canada. The site also adds a few details about those who accompanied Atkinson at the time: Marc (bass) and Chris Reimer (drums) of Azeda Booth, an act which earned a 7.9/10 grade from Pitchfork with its 2008 Absolutely Kosher release, In Flesh Tones. Collecting two improvisations and three additional songs in the set (“In Dreams of You,” “My Heart Collapses,” & “Whispers in Silence”), the band combines strings of feedback and abstract sounds before eventually erupting roughly three minutes before the performance quietly fades out. Think a less orchestral, relaxed Sigur Rós.
Move ahead four years to 2009’s Sled Island festival where Beneath These Idle Tides performed a standard set in addition to producing an audio/visual installation titled “Moments Of A Red Sun (In D Major).”
“‘Moments Of A Red Sun (In D Major)’ is an audio installment piece composed by Beneath These Idle Tides in which eight CDs that have approximately 60 tracks each are played on random and repeat over eight different stereos. The result is a ever-changing, continuous piece of music that will never be heard the same way twice. The music will be shown with a looped video created by Manny Golden specifically as the visual component to this project.”
Beneath These Idle Tides is equally intriguing and off-putting. Those same subtle tones which require you to “have your stereo cranked” are aggravating at times and spell disaster for anyone lacking patience. But they’re also touching, and as a deeper sound is channeled it becomes increasingly difficult not to become captivated as the dense, fluid tones progressively materialize. Whatever lies ahead for Beneath These Idle Tides, whether it be musical, visual, or a combination of the two, it can’t come soon enough.