BLUE.HOUR
21’00”

YANN NOVAK, US

CD + DIGITAL RELEASE
CATALOGUE: F90109
EDITION: 300 COPIES
RELEASED JANUARY 26, 2013

1. Blue.Hour

Blue.Hour explores the high contrast colors created in the landscape during “l’heure bleue,” the period of twilight each evening when there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. Directly following the ‘Golden Hour,’ know for its diffused yet powerful light, the Blue Hour retains the diffusion but lacks the strong light source giving this period of the day an especially melancholic and meditative atmosphere.

Blue.Hour is presented here in stereo with some compositional elements added to make it more suitable for home listening.

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Yann Novak is an artist, composer, and curator based in Los Angeles. His work is guided by his interests in perception, context, movement, and the felt presence of direct experience. Through the use of sound and light, Novak explores how these intangible materials can act as catalysts to focus our awareness on our present location in space and time. Novak’s diverse body of works – audiovisual installations, performances, architectural interventions, sound diffusions, recording, and prints – ask participants to reclaim the present moment as a political act.

Novak’s work has been experienced through exhibitions and performance at the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena; The Broad, Los Angeles; California Museum of Photography, Riverside; Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Human Resources, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Mutek Festival, Montreal; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Soundfjord, London; Susanne Vielmetter LA Projects, Los Angeles; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and The Stone, New York, among others. His recorded sound works have been published by Crónica, Porto; Dronarivm, Moscow; Farmacia901, Berlin; Hibernate, Leeds; Home Normal, London; LINE Imprint, Los Angeles; Tigerbeat6, Los Angeles; and Touch, London, among others.

As a curator, Novak focuses on creating opportunities for artists and audiences to build communities that otherwise might not exist. This began in 2005 when he re-launched his father’s imprint Dragon’s Eye Recordings with a new focus on limited edition releases by emerging and mid-career sound artists, composers, and producers. Since its re-launch, Dragon’s Eye Recordings has published over 70 editions and has received critical acclaim internationally. In 2013, he became a member of VOLUME, a curatorial collective dedicated to presenting time-based work by emerging and established artists engaged in sound-based practices through performances, concerts, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, and publications.

Novak has participated in numerous artists residencies including the The Jental Artist Residency, Sharidan, Wyoming; The Mountain School of Arts, Los Angeles; The Taliesin Artist Residency, Spring Green, Wisconsin; and The Touch Mentorship Programme, London, among others.

In recent years, Novak has collaborated through select installations, performances and recorded works with Johanna Breiding, Rebecca Bruno, Richard Chartier, Robert Crouch, Rafa Esparza, Taisha Paggett, Fabio Perletta, and Alex Schweder, among others.

MARCO FERRETTI / SOUTERRAINE

Il singolo “Blue.Hour” (2013) su Farmacia901 esplora i colori ad alto contrasto creati durante il breve passaggio della c.d. ‘heure bleue’. Un concept in miniatura dedicato a quel periodo del crepuscolo in cui la luce si affievolisce fino a scomparire, per una completa oscurità. Il romanticismo di Yann Novak sembra essere pari solo alla sua straordinaria sperimentazione in note.

La sua discografia si arricchisce poco alla volta di nuove release che hanno anche una controparte visuale. La vita dell’artista statunitense è dedicata a varie forme di arte, destinate in qualche modo a congiungersi di continuo. Il suono, la luce e lo spazio alterano, spesso, la nostra concezione del tempo. Non a caso, costituiscono sia i punti di partenza della sua ricerca materiale.

E, soprattutto, fungono da catalizzatori per l’attenzione altrui. “Blue.Hour” è il diretto seguito di quella ‘golden hour’, il segmento temporale precedente e dai colori dorati. Di solito, il tramonto è associabile a un mood più sognante. L’ora blu è, invece, malinconica. Nonostante i soli venti minuti di durata, Yann Novak riesce nell’impresa di catturare un feeling davvero intenso e meditativo.

O, semplicemente, celestiale. La quiete al suo massimo, la natura incontaminata. Il calore degli ultimi raggi del Sole e le ultime suggestioni umane. Un flusso sonoro si propaga lento, ma costante. Il bordone è tutto tranne che aspro, non incute alcun timore, anzi, seduce l’ascoltatore e lo eleva a uno stato di grazia. Il corpo si rilassa. Il suono cresce in intensità fino a sfumare. Al di là del giorno.

MARIA PAPADOMANOLAKI / THE FIELD REPORTER

Yann Novak’s Blue.Hour attempts to capture the eternity of a moment, to transpose it to audible scale; moving in tones that nonchalantly emit nocturnal vapors gradually covering the light. The ongoing rumble reminds me of the solid ground, it’s circular motion and the myriad of stellar reflections soon to appear around it. Dwelled in sequences of mindfulness, Novak’s 21 minute composition acts like a mirror-reminder of what is to be lost and to be found in the present time of listening. Field recordings are laboriously worked and reworked to discharge any point of reference and familiarity, operating in abstract mode, lost and found within the listener’s pool of synapses and contortions. “L’heure bleue” is this thin temporal slice where the last light of the day is about to fade into the darkness of the night, emitting high contrast colors; a transitional state, a state of minute yet dramatic changes. It is this particular moment that is exposed, blown up, stretched up and down and re-enacted through Novak’s acoustic lenses. A polite tension drives the permuting drones that unravel and regress only to gradually disappear. The composition ends where it begun only to be re-animated by another play. Outside of its large-scale audiovisual installation counterpart, this release offers a transparent, fluid and immersive spectrum, ideal for private, meditative and closed headphone listening. Novak is an artist who values space, atmosphere (light, sound, touch, feel) and memory greatly. To him, each work is an attempt to share with an audience a very personal investigation of a space full of uncertainties, ambiguities and abstractions. Novak’s space, or is it perhaps place, doesn’t necessarily have a finite presence but it borders with absence too. Blue.Hour evokes a kind of experience that is open to be transmitted and diffused in many forms, moods and motions. It might actually not be about hearing per se but feeling, feeling in place, whether that is his place or the listener’s. Blue.Hour has as many faces and movements as its listeners. It calls for perception, attenuation, expansion, presence and absence, intimacy and distance. The artist writes on his website that his work in general is concerned with the investigation of presence, stillness and awareness. This particular recording tonight sounded like the faraway city and the passing trains while walking on a bridge to the other side, breathing cold air in, surrounded by the sky in its blue-orange-pink skin complex. And that sort of distant-past time presence, alone makes me think that a moment, or better a glimpse of a moment usually feels so big in “memory-time”. To me, Novak’s Blue.Hour, in it’s stereo home listening version, awakens that awareness of presence in memory-time: circular, expanded and transcendent.

IVO D’ANTONI / ELECTRONIQUE.IT

Yann Novak è uno dei sound artist più prolifici dell’ultimo decennio, una vita dedicata all’arte, ad una forma espressiva che coniugasse immagini e suono in una visione sperimentale che ha mantenuto il focus attivo proprio sulla proprietà evocativa dei due media.

Inutile elencare una discografia ampissima resa ancor più corposa dalla lista dei contesti espositivi che nella maggior parte dei casi hanno determinato poi la nascita dei dischi stessi. La musica in funzione dell’immagine stessa, della narrazione e della lettura di un qualsivoglia progetto artistico.

Ritroviamo la Farmacia 901, splendida label magistralmente diretta dal lavoro di Fabio Perletta con questo CD contenente un unico brano di ventuno celestiali minuti. Un lavoro che nasce dall’esplorazione di un determinato momento della giornata denominato l’ora blu, un lasso di tempo che si verifica al tramonto o all’alba nel quale la luce solare assume quel determinato colore.

E’ un collegamento sentimentale quello che sicuramente lega l’artista ad un evento naturale che quando vissuto ha il potere di regalare suggestioni a non finire. C’è di mezzo il tepore del primo e dell’ultimo sole, ci sono i colori della malinconia, del dolore e della speranza, c’è la solitudine, l’introspezione, l’auto indagine ed anche il piacere della vista, preso nella sua purezza.

Novak è un maestro nel descrivere il momento. In soli ventuno minuti raggiunge vette emotive di grande spessore, lo fa attraverso un flusso opaco che lascia poco spazio alla certezza e quindi riesce a far liberare la mente. Modula un drone invisibile rendendolo morbido ed accogliente, crea un habital paradisiaco dove tutto il calore può emergere e circondarci, farci assaporare con l’immaginazione le sensazioni dell’ora di blu. Non fermatevi sul dettaglio, quante sono le produzioni attuali in grado di farvi pensare, si, di far accendere il pensiero? Siate più esigenti, fatevi sedurre da musica che sappia stimolarvi, sappia farvi evolvere, sappia farvi emozionare con la forza del pensiero. Non si tratta di proporre un suono mai sentito prima, una diavoleria tecnica di ultima generazione o chissà cos’altro, ma una stesura che abbia l’intelligenza e la complessità del vostro pensiero. Apritevi alla musica.

STEPHEN FRUITMAN / AVANT MUSIC NEWS

Sometimes sociologists speak of “quasi-objects”, objects that are neither entirely natural nor entirely social, but rather serve as “operators” that draw people together in specific relationships as well as into relationships with non-human objects. Which sort of turns them into subjects, too. This is exactly what Yann Novak´s works are. As installation pieces, they are agents that exist to be related to – in situ in the gallery, surrounded by other visitors, with whom you might share the experience, or at home, in the form of a record, for a more private encounter. At the beginning of 2012, Yann Novak deactivated his label Dragon´s Eye Recordings to concentrate on installation work. Rather than stem the flow of new records, Novak´s release schedule has been more crowded than ever, but now on a variety of different imprints. Of the three recent albums here, “Blue.Hour” is the most inventively designed, though all three are handsomely packaged. “Blue.Hour” is a twenty-one minute piece, housed in a soft, opaque plastic case with a short, horizontal line affixed to the front, on a clear plastic CD with a blue dot in the middle, on which the music is stored. In other words, it is a mini-CD hidden in the plain sight of a five-inch disc. His intent is to capture the twilight, that liminal moment which is not quite daylight, not yet darkness. Novak captures this attractive indirectness with a soft aerosol spray, the tiniest particles dancing their way beyond the curve of the earth. Its background is the gentle swell and recession of the sky.

ANDREA PREVIGNANO / RUMORE

In quel frammento di tempo tra notte e giorno che regala la luce affascinante del crepuscolo, la cosiddetta “ora blu”, si insinua la brezza dronica di Yann Novak, sound designer losangeleno titolare dell’etichetta Dragon’s Eye, artista multidisciplinare che descrive la sua musica come un’operazione di “narrativa astratta a finale aperto”.
Concepita come commento per un’installazione sonora/visuale tenuta un anno fa alla Jack Straw New Media Gallery di Seattle, Blue.Hour è un flusso sonoro quieto il cui dipanarsi rivela intersezioni di frequenze basse, hiss elettronici e found sound dal Joshua Tree National Park che vanno a comporre il respiro lento e meditato di un gigante elettronico in letargo. Per estimatori di Thomas Köner e Celer.

FRANS DE WAARD / VITAL WEEKLY 881

The blue hour is that time of the day when day light is not yet entirely gone but darkness has not yet fully arrived. It follows after the ‘golden hour’, which is ‘known for its diffused yet powerful light’ and the blue hour ‘retians the diffusion but lacks the strong light source giving this period of the day an especially melancholic and meditative atmosphere’. I believe this is an installation piece, but of course here we have a stereo version. This is already much louder than his work with Chartier, but follows the same course. A dark sound is brushed with big strokes and lighter notes, higher pitched ones are placed around it, like guiding lights in a dark forest. Slow build up, slow drop down – the sound wave that looks like a cigar. Minimalist changes are of course the matter, as this is not some piece of simple stretching some notes around and leave them be. Twenty-one minutes exactly of rich bliss music. A small quiet storm of sound. As far as I am concerned this could lasted also thirty-nine minutes – rain still pours down and it’s best to stay inside and listen.

GIANMARIA APRILE / SODAPOP

Yann Novak vive e lavora nella città di Los Angeles dove donnine prosperose e omaccioni muscolosi corrono al rallentatore sulla spiaggia, e nel mentre Yann manipola suoni in totale solitudine in un buio scantinato nella periferia della città… o forse no, anzi, direi proprio il contrario, visto il lungo curriculum di luoghi dove ha presentato le sue installazioni e i festival prestigiosi dove ha suonato. Quindi probabilmente non sono solo le lande desolate, che si tratti di neve o di deserti ad inspirare musica dronica, ma anche i tramonti o le albe della città più fittizia d’America. Blue Hour è un flusso, un drone, ma non un drone il cui peso sonoro piega la schiena e le orecchie all’indietro, ma che solleva l’ascoltatore, o meglio lo eleva in uno stato di grazia trascendentale/ambientale. Non a caso l’ispirazione viene proprio da “l’ora blu” che identifica una particolare condizione della naturale luce solare che si verifica, al tramonto o all’alba, in situazione di crepuscolo, quando il sole è sotto l’orizzonte. L’orario, la durata e l’intensità del fenomeno cambiano a seconda delle stagioni, delle latitudini e delle condizioni meteo. É un situazione ambientale spesso ricercata nella fotografia, proprio perchè permette di ottenere effetti di contrasto che non si riuscirebbero ad ottenere in altro modo. Ed è proprio “fotografando” con l’audio questo evento climatico che Novak in 21 minuti esatti coglie le sfumature del blu, le penombre e i colori più freddi in contrasto con il blu intenso. Ad un buon volume ci si lascia avvolgere piacevolmente da questo suono che penetra nello spirito, lasciando una sensazione di positività e di pacificazione con il mondo. Ma poi, quando riapro gli occhi richiamato dall’ennesimo “papi” di mio figlio, la pace dei sensi raggiunta fino a quel momento, si vaporizza come una nuvoletta di fumo nell’aria e si ritorna alla vita concreta. Farmacia901, o meglio Fabio Perletta, è come sempre molto attenta all’estetica e naturalmente in tema con la materia musicale in questione, inserisce il CD in una custodia trasparente su un supporto a sua volta trasparente e giocando con dei cerchi concentrici di colore grigio-azzurro crea un oggetto di design. Da ascoltare e da avere.

TEXTURA

Listener’s familiar with Yann Novak’s work will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this twenty-one-minute, single-track release (the CD available in an edition of 300) on the Italy-based Farmacia901 label, whose focus is conceptual sound works. As its title suggests, Blue.Hour takes as its starting point “l’heure bleue,” that moment of the evening when “there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness.” The Los Angeles-based sound, video and installation artist evokes this fleeting moment by draping subdued tones of seemingly never-ending duration across a softly rumbling dronescape of gaseous vapors. The slow-motion unfurl could mislead the inattentive listener into hearing the piece as a static entity, whereas, in fact, changes occur throughout, such as subtle modulations in volume and intensity, but with such careful calibration they could be overlooked. In short, the material breathes in a becalmed manner reminiscent of the slowed breathing patterns associated with sleep. Befitting the concept, the work is immersive and meditative, its mood conducive to that time of day when melancholic reflection comes naturally to the average working soul.

PAOLO MICELI / KOMAKINO ‘ZINE

Again, I have mixed feelings for drone music. But this piece, by LA-based sound-artist Yann Novak, is pretty classy.
 See-through packaging featuring an almost all-transparent CD, one unique long track, tracking up a trip “during “l’heure bleue,” the period of twilight each evening when there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness.”
21 minutes of fuzzy star dust, going up and down into your head (I suggest headphones for a full deep-down listening). Meditative, diffusive, filled with sunday evening bitterness: “Blue.Hour is presented here in a darkened room with 4 channels of sound paired with a large scale video projection. The piece is formed from photographs and sounds collected in Joshua Tree National Park in June 2010.”.
You may fall asleep with this disc, just put it on repeat. It’ll goes quietly mesmeric, fully lenitive, mystical.

PHILIPPE BLANCHE / IGLOO MAGAZINE

Yann Novak is a transdisciplinary artist and sound designer based in Los Angeles. His art and experiments are largely devoted to sound spatialization and process music. Consequently he has contributed to numerous installations (to various galleries and museums of modern art all around the world) in the field of sonic arts. He has published a handful of electronically-based ambient releases on renowned independent labels such as Dragon’s Eye, Hibernate to name a couple. His musical signature is particularly interesting and positively challenging. Naturally his complex textural experimentations fit perfectly with the catalog of Farmacia901 (a label created by the musician Fabio Perletta to promote what we can distinctively consider to be the pinnacle of nowadays abstract electronic minimalist music). Musically speaking Blue.Hour frankly operates on the territories of sonic ambient music, approaching such a luminous fusion between meticulously done timbral experimentations and poetically moving sound references. Emotion, simplicity and tonal refinement are driving strengths behind the creation of this album. Those ambient paintings admit comparison with part of contemporary tonal music from Andrew Chalk, Thomas Köner, Richard Chartier and Celer. The processing method which controls the sonic events trough time is focused on micro-variations, movement patterns and sound spectrality. A meditatively beautiful and subtly introspective album which reveals the fundamental structures of time through melodious, static and dynamic ambient motives. A calmly enveloping musical elevation which is highly recommended.

BEACH SLOTH

‘Blue Hour’ is gentle. Yann Novak specializes in calm sounds. Here he continues onward down the path between the field recording and the gentle drone. This is a translucent sound. While every piece appears to be tangible (the insects, the noise, and the environment) it remains somewhat mysterious. Exactly where Yann is does not matter in terms of sound. Rather what Yann does is the amazing part. By having the created sound match the organic and having the organic sound match the created; Yann Novak has each side reinforce the other. Gently the environmental sounds filter in deeper and fuller. What is initially believed to be the sound of thunder is in fact the low end of the drone. It never gets louder than that. Deep within the recesses of the sound is even a melody. This is the sort of melody that has no specific origin. Before the melody hovers gently up it feels like that sound had always been there. Yann simply turned up the volume on the quiet sounds. Here in this environment he celebrates the quiet sounds that are often drowned out by nearly everything else. Slowly he takes the deeper registers of sound and slowly removes them layer by layer. By the very end of the track it sounds reminiscent of evaporation. The sound disappears leaving only traces. The sound is human without feeling like anyone touched the sound. It exists within the limits of perception. ‘Blue Hour’ is an aural daydream.

HAWÁI™

‘Blue.Hour’ no es solo sonido, es una parte de un proyecto que abarca otras áreas del arte, una mínima parte que solo podemos apreciar desde los oídos, pero que de todas formas podemos intuir e imaginar. Primero, un archivo de vídeo en HD de poco más de seis minutos, una versión abreviada presentada en Soundfjord (Londres) en julio de 2011, más tarde en la Galería Jack Straw de Seattle. Posteriormente, una instalación audiovisual presentada en una sala oscurecida con cuatro canales de sonido con una proyección de vídeo de gran escala, exhibida entre febrero y marzo de 2012 en la misma galería norteamericana. Finalmente, un disco publicado por el sello Farmacia901, una red de diversos medios con sede en Italia fundado sobre los principios de la belleza como minimalismo, música como diseño y sonido como material maleable, fusionando elementos que van de la electrónica experimental al arte sonoro y los microsonidos. “Blue.Hour” aparece en CD en formato minimax –solo impresa con información digital las tres pulgadas interiores. El resto, plástico transparente–, con el texto en colores negro y azul oscuro –código RGB #5E7796–, utilizando como tipografía la fuente Helvetica, inserto una caja similar al DiscSaver, en una edición de trescientas copias. El minimalismo como belleza. Y esa belleza solo alcanza a prolongarse durante veintiún minutos, suficientes para apreciar la enorme superficie de los paisajes que sobresalen cuando la luz expone el panorama natural. “‘Blue.Hour’ explora los altos contrastes de colores creados en el paisaje durante ‘l’heure bleue’, el período del crepúsculo cada atardecer donde no hay ni total luz de día ni completa oscuridad. Directamente siguiendo a ‘la hora dorada’, conocida por su difusa y todavía poderosa luz, la hora azul retiene la difusión pero carece de la fuente de luz fuerte, dándole a este período del día una atmósfera especialmente melancólica y meditativa”. Del silencio al silencio, y entre medio, un hábitat iluminado por el sonido traslúcido. Anteriormente ya nos habíamos sorprendido con parte de la obra del músico de Los Ángeles. El pasado año, entre otros trabajos, entregó Fata Morgana (Murmur, 2012) [199], junto a Robert Crouch, donde, al igual que en este caso, se partía de un fenómeno atmosférico para crear su banda sonora –“Cuaderno de viaje fragmentado, deconstruyendo la luz, difuminando el color, borrando la imagen, todo a la vez. ‘Fata Morgana’ es un ruido de fondo que impide ver el fondo, ruido que borra los ejes por los que se conduce la música. Este espejismo suele apreciarse por las mañanas, luego de una noche fría, el momento ideal para dejarse acariciar por su aura de ruido confuso”–. Ahora vuelve a los parajes desérticos, pues la pieza esta formada de fotografías y sonidos recogidos en el Parque Nacional Joshua Tree (California) en junio de 2010. La electrónica espaciosa de Novak vuelve a adueñarse del espacio físico que le rodea. Muchas veces cuesta realizar una labor descriptiva sobre lo que se oye. En el caso de Novak no es así. El componente visual que acompaña a la música que crea esta perfectamente acoplada a ella. Ya cuando uno comienza a ir más allá de la belleza del plástico que contiene e intenta reflejar las imágenes, de manera inmediata uno se traslada a los horizontes melancólicos y meditativos. La línea que sustenta la música es tan tenue que apenas y se puede percibir, su estructura es extremadamente delgada. Entre el principio y el final hay dos puntos que unen esta pieza, y la distancia recorrida casi no presenta alteraciones en cualquier sentido. Pero esa ausencia de movimientos no significa que el sonido no mute ni se transforme a lo largo de su lento recorrido. “Blue.Hour” es una gran planicie sobre la cual se extiende una enorme capa de plástico diáfano, y sobre ella otra capa más, y así. Esa falta de materia que interrumpa el paso energía lumínica, permite que los colores del ambiente traspasen el sonido. Sin embargo, de alguna forma, algo de ese sonido queda atrapado en esas capas, pero retenido en una forma débil y extenuada, tal y como en la hora azul. “‘Blue.Hour’ es presentado en estéreo con algunos elementos compositivos agregados para hacerlo más apropiado para su escucha casera”, hogar que se transforma en un mar de imágenes atenuadas si es que uno decide cerrar los párpados y escaparse del mundo. Todo es frágil, todo es cristalino. El ruido no alcanza a sobrepasar el límite que signifique una interrupción del resto de elementos habituales que suenan en una sala, pero esa fragilidad, de algún modo, logra abstraerlo a uno. La realidad interpretada por las fotografías se plasma en un fino tejido de electrónica estática, el mismo que deja ver entre sus trazos los difusos colores de un paisaje cercano. El sonido respira, de el brotan ráfagas de viento, grandes olas de ruido ambiental, y lo inmaterial se vuelve corpóreo, transformándose a lo largo de los minutos. Durante este período del día, y debido a que la luz que desde el sol impacta a la tierra es menos intensa que en el resto de las horas, la distancia entre luces y sombras es igualmente menor, lo que produce que ambas no resulten sobreexpuestas. El sonido que traspasa a ese mismo sonido no se sobrepone a las imágenes que crea, sino que ayuda a difuminar los límites que entre un tono y otro existen, aumentando sus divergencias. Los escasos veintiún minutos en los que se prolonga esta panorámica hacia el infinito el tiempo, el espacio y la luz se confunden en una postal de colores y sonidos escalados, cuyos puntos de inicio y término ya no son tan nítidos como hace unos instantes lo eran.

RICHARD ALLEN / A CLOSER LISTEN

How long would you normally watch something that is slowly changing – a sunrise or sunset, a sleeping bear at the public zoo (wake up!), or the lapping of a tide? Such scenes inspire endless fascination for a few, but for most, 21 minutes seems about right. Blue.Hour is one of Yann Novak‘s shorter works, and as such as more effective than those four times its length. Not that the composer’s longform pieces are any less elegant; they simply tax the possibility of undivided attention. Blue.Hour is gorgeous foreground music. One can listen straight through the disc without needing to do anything else, save perhaps staring through a window. If outdoors, the possibilities become endless. Blue.Hour seeks to capture the slowly unfurling colors of l’heure bleue, the twilight hour. As such, by the artist’s design, it lends itself to “melancholy and meditation”. The problem for many is that they miss this hour in nature; it’s often an hour in which people are returning from work, stuck in traffic, home making dinner or spending time with the kids. But each night, this little miracle takes place, this diffusion of blue. Without a cyanometer, one might miss the gradations. This is where Novak comes in. Steam hiss, undulating keys and mingling chords form a natural progression, more of an arc than a line: from quiet origin to gently assertive transition to quiet diffusion. The piece operates as a soft pocket of calm, a stolen interlude, a sonic mirror. The original installation featured multichannel sound and video, but the new release (to which Novak added “compositional elements”) is portable, and thus adaptable to the needs and desires of the consumer. One would hope that the piece would inspire a series of experiments in home listening, at the very least a spin during the blue hour. I’ve found that it best accompanies l’heure bleue, as originally intended, but is also suitable for the early morning, the late evening, and the contemplation of snow. Others may come to different conclusions, but the key is that it works: neither static nor active, the piece lands just inbetween, betraying its nature as a liminal work. To hear less of Yann Novak is to hear more of Yann Novak; here’s hoping that we encounter more such works from the composer, deep meaning unlocked through concise form.

NATHAN THOMAS / FLUID RADIO

Like much of Los Angeles-based artist Yann Novak’s recent work, the audio recording “Blue.Hour” is part of a larger project also incorporating photography and video installation. Photographs collected in Joshua Tree National Park, California were used to create an abstract, subtly shifting video, reflecting the diffused light and strong colours of the time of day known as ‘l’heurre bleue’, or ‘the blue hour’. When combined with four-channel ambient sound, an immersive and meditative audio-visual experience is produced. An abridged version of “Blue.Hour” was first shown at London’s Soundfjord gallery in 2011, with the full installation appearing at Jack Straw New Media Gallery in Seattle in 2012 (as far as I can tell from their website, the latter gallery has no association with the Labour MP for Blackburn). From one perspective there would seem to be a strange contradiction at the heart of Novak’s work. The aesthetics of his installations would seem to hark back to the Modernism expounded by art critics such as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried, particularly the latter’s notions of absorption and presence. According to this dictum, the artist’s role is to produce a pure phenomenological experience, free from representational content, that would provide the occasion for a moment of ideal transcendence. Novak’s ambient drones, abstract colour fields, and emphasis on perceptual immersion would seem to reflect similar aspirations: his installations almost seem to promise a timeless, out-of-body experience, an eternal moment of sublime presence. Yet at the same time, his choice of time-based media and declared concern with narrative would seem to undermine these aims, and the photographs used to construct the “Blue.Hour” video clearly show a landscape — an act of reference that points back to traditions of landscape painting supposedly supplanted by Greenberg’s Modernist abstraction. It’s not entirely clear to me whether Novak seeks to bring presence and temporality together into some kind of dialectical synthesis, or whether he wishes to make a more subtle point regarding the pervasiveness of narrative in perceptual experience. As a result, I find it difficult to decide whether to hear the audio release of “Blue.Hour” as an ocean to lose myself in, or a narrative to follow. Really, the single twenty-minute track rewards both modes of listening, the slowly-evolving washes giving enough hints of developing structure to follow, while also proving suitable for drifting off to; the only thing frustrated is my (Modernist?) desire for conceptual clarity. Rather than insisting on one kind of experience, the record proves itself open to a spectrum, ranging from the rarified transcendental to the resolutely worldly and time-bound. One thinks of those little moments that seem both larger than they are and yet incredibly specific, perhaps when staring out of the window of a bus, or listening to rainfall late at night. Maybe there are ways of thinking about and evoking the sublime that remain in the material world of objects existing in time. Somewhere between darkness and daylight, perhaps. “Blue.Hour” is available in CD and download editions from Fabio Perletta’s label Farmacia901.

AURÉLIE SCOUARNEC / SILENT WEAPONS FOR QUITE WARS

Travailler la teinte avec un pinceau d’ondes sonores, esquisser les nuances en nappes fréquentielles. Donner à entendre la couleur. Une couleur qui n’appartient ni au jour ni à la nuit, une lumière passagère transitant entre veille et sommeil, voilà sur quoi se penche Yann Novak pour son dernier album Blue.Hour. Après avoir principalement sorti ses disques sur son propre label, Dragon’s Eye Recordings, l’américain à la discographie conséquente a vu ses albums sortir sur des enseignes telles que Line (Relocation.Reconstruction) ou Hibernate (Presence). C’est aujourd’hui le label italien Farmacia901 qui nous offre son bel EP en guise d’ouverture pour cette nouvelle année. Qu’est-ce, au juste, que cette “heure bleue” ? La formule est trompeuse. Déjà, ce n’est pas tout à fait une heure, c’est une période qui tient souvent dans une vingtaine de minutes, à l’image de la durée de cet album. Et puis, cette heure, ce n’est pas non plus que du “bleu”, c’est aussi une déclinaison de contrastes plus profonds amenés par la lumière solaire diffusée au moment où il ne fait plus jour mais pas encore nuit. Le soleil s’est couché, mais la nuit n’est pas encore tombée. Moment suspendu, donc, dans l’étendue grandie d’un intervalle. Yann Novak mène ses nappes de fréquences dans un ballet tournoyant au ralenti et dont les contours en ondulation diffusent les particules d’une atmosphère propice à l’émerveillement. Quelque chose qui tiendrait dans l’avancée du silence, dans le gommage des limites du paysage. Un léger grondement qui s’exécute, annonçant l’obscurité imminente. Du bruit blanc qui floute ce qui reste de frontières. A la longue, on finirait presque par confondre les couches de fréquences avec un chant murmuré par des voix féminines. Ceux qui ont vu Les Moissons du Ciel (Days Of Heaven) de Terrence Malick – film dont le tournage s’était fait chaque jour durant “l’heure bleue” – retrouveront peut-être dans Blue.Hour des échos de la beauté mystérieuse qui émanait de chacune des images. Il y a certaines couleurs, certaines lumières, dont on ne se défait pas.