Psst! Hey!! No, it would never work… Two years on, we are finally graced with a new album from the enigmatic Philosopher’s Stone. The Stone is the solo-now-permanent project of Gareth Mitchell (ex) of Amp. On the evidence of this record, quite a bit has happened in the last two years for Mitchell. I couldn’t help but notice he has ditched the vocals that so beautifully complemented the guitar textures of the Preparation debut. But perhaps the name, Preparation , was to be taken literally. Perhaps that record was just a short period of gestation, nothing more. I believe so. Let’s continue that album-title theory, then, with Apparatus . Fine, it holds water because Apparatus finds Mitchell manipulating the very essence of the studio to fill the gaps where his voice used to be. Apparatus is no mere ambient noodling exercise, either. Mitchell created the whole album in his home studio, sampling and resampling his electric guitar (among other items), then processing and editing the resulting sounds to the point of a new and unrecognizable chunk of sound. And I’m sure this record could have turned out nightmarish after nine months of being your own and only critic/editor, but Apparatus is a magnificent success.
I like the way Apparatus is more skittish and nervous than your average Kranky opus. When you play it, the songs lurk behind corners, loom over your shoulder and merge with the flickering shadows. Every time you think you’ve caught something, the sound darts around a corner, just out of view, songs cut abruptly into silence and then whirr slowly back to life. Or perhaps Mitchell will throw out random white noise every so often, to distract you from the path the music is really taking, like a red herring. It matters little why. Apparatus is all about the phantom nature of sound, fading in and out of consciousness, startling you with unexpected bumps-in-the-night, with the most beautiful moments always just on the periphery…
Kranky Records, P.O. Box 578743, Chicago, IL 60657