When we last checked in with Ian Hazeldine, the North Wales-based composer who records as Antonymes, he had recently finished a revealing interview with Fluid Radio, and was a few days from releasing The Licence to Interpret Dreams. Overall our impression of the album was very positive: “a wise, accessible, and enchanting piece of art.” One track in particular (“Doubt”) was marred with an unfortunate spoken-word arrangement, but as we will see in a moment, the unsinging voice has become one of Hazeldine’s strengths.
Antonymes has recently released We Don’t Look Back For Very Long, ostensibly a remix album of four Slow Dancing Society tracks, each taken from a different album (Slow Dancing Society is Spokane-based Drew Sullivan, a celebrated ambient practitioner in his own right). Hazeldine isn’t much for convention, so this is a far piece from typical DJ fare.
It begins with “The Grey Sea And The Long Black Land,” a modern classical interpretation of “Be There,” from Sullivan’s 2010 The Sound of Lights When Dim. Hazeldine establishes the stet ethic from the outset: while he might give the source material a bit more space — “Gray Sea” clocks in at eight minutes compared to the original four — there is no clear evidence of a second performer in the room until the halfway mark. And that is where the signature piano returns: sparse, slow, with hardwood floor-reverb and an optimistic, commanding posture. This is far from a subject artist remixing an object one. Both Hazeldine and Sullivan are the subjects here.
“As If Viewed From A Distance” takes its cue from “The Time We’ve Spent,” part of The Slow and Steady Winter. The track is an odd choice for repurposing, with its showroom-floor guitar and dislodged sense of time. Instead, Hazeldine turns his focus to the song’s ambient undercoat, and here his piano functions as a lead-in for a brief Carl Jung clip regarding his theory of archetypes. The historical sample is far more effective than the spoken-word attempt we recalled above (again, that album was named Licence to Interpret Dreams, and in that regard the inclusion of Jung here co,mes off as a wink to the audience).
“Forever Young” from Priest Lake Circa ’88, serves as source material for the third track, “That Moment.” Sullivan’s original cut is downright luminous: a brief, celestial piece with rhythmic vocal echoes, lush ambient drone, and what seems to be a high-register guitar riff processed nearly out of recognition. Hazeldine takes simple drops from this well and touches the canvas with his fingertips, in minimal synthesizer, minimal piano, and a brief audio bit from Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life. The remix is simple and stunning, possibly the high point of the album. And again, the sample is confident, penetrating, yet deliciously abstract.
The closing track “A Feeling Of Being Closer” draws its genesis from “By Your Side,” which appeared on Under The Sodium Lights. “By Your Side” leans more toward the literal, similar to “The Time We Spent,” but not uncomfortably so. Where the previous track most succeeds as a stand-alone work, “A Feeling Of Being Closer” is the most non-invasive of the four remixes, playing almost as an alternate version recorded during the original sessions. The adagio piano echoes are frail without brittleness, resonant without distraction.
Hazeldine has not only rearranged parts of a deserving stable-mate’s ambient catalog, he has remixed the very idea of the remix. We Don’t Look Back For Very Long is available through Hidden Shoal in a limited edition of 100 hand-numbered CDs, with art direction and letterpress print by the composer, and mastering by Wil Bolton.