Music

Portuguese Ambient Duo HRNS Create Universally Human Music on 'Naomi'

Photo courtesy of the artist

On their debut Naomi, Portuguese duo HRNS channel memories and feelings into impressionistic ambient drones.

Naomi
HRNS

warm winters ltd

22 March 2019

In his film Summer Hours, French director Oliver Assayas draws immense evocative power from a simple narrative. Three siblings mourn the death of their mother. At first glance, there's nothing more to it. But between the sparse dialogues and long takes, scenes overflow with the wistful taste of fading memories. An unwanted nostalgia occupies each slow frame. For the protagonists, a world has ended. Assayas captures the emotional fallout of the loss of a loved one and the emptiness they leave behind with subtlety and warmth. On their debut Naomi – the first release on London's warm winters ltd, a spin-off of ambient label ACR – Portuguese duo HRNS (Rui P. Andrade and Afonso Arrepia Ferreira alias Farwarmth) make music a conduit for similar poetic and contemplative perceptions. "A yearning for true intimacy and closeness" poured into sonic flesh.

The seven cuts on Naomi feel like fragments of memories swallowed whole in hypnagogic states and shaped into gentle, assertive drones. Only partially reconstructed and full of cracks, but irreplaceable. Within them, traces of relationships and emotions become imprinted into melody. The impressionistic "White Heron" ripples with lush and bright sheets of white noise slit by high pitched synths. The thick sonic tapestry instills a sense of floatiness, as if being lost in a snowstorm and left in awe of its sheer, yet gentle power. Above all, it's a song that feels human and sets the stage for the rest of the record.

"You Will Never See the Same Water Twice" then explodes like a whisper of words that are meant to remain unheard and can be uttered only in solitude. It's an abstract piece which teeters with textures made into rhythms and incisive noises while voices and splashes of water appear and disappear beneath them. The atmosphere is sad and beautiful, melancholy, and hopeful. It conjures bittersweet images of places and moments that cannot be recaptured nor relived. Like watching washed out tapes of people long gone and trying to touch them through a screen. Like an imaginary field recording of sounds never produced.

Andrade and Farwarmth reshape their drones constantly. On the optimistic "Swan Palace", Auto-Tuned and synthetic vocals are brought to the front, slashing through a hazy mesh of synthesizers. Mutated baroque metonymies and echoes of harpsichords adorn the glitched and distorted "Prunes De Namur". Elsewhere, they veer towards the rare steady, almost aggressive rhythm of "Eurostar" – a pop song dissolved – before closing the record with the gorgeous "Angeles". Here, an elusive flow of muted thumps and waves of shoegaze is contrasted with the delicate whistling of wind brushing against microphones.

While this final track completely bares the duo's essence, the music throughout the record appears as a natural fusion of the musicians' individual sensibilities. Andrade's elegant fragility, precious found sounds, and warm warble of synths intertwine and become lost in Farwarmth's gusts of piercing intensity and moments of heady atonality.

There are reflections of ambient and drone music axioms on Naomi – effigies of Vangelis's Blade Runner soundtrack, most notably – but HRNS' music eludes the straightforward, associative semantics of sound. Instead, akin to Assayas' approach in film, Andrade and Farwarmth find and amplify affective chords in the spaces and dynamics between familiar noises. While primarily concerned with the insularity of people in our semi-virtual world, they seem to give voice to something much deeper. Something older. Something universally human.

Related Articles Around the Web
8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.