e4444e’s I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle is Music Feeds’ Album of the Week. Giuliano Ferla reviews.
I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle is the new album from e4444e, the moniker for Newcastle-based multi-instrumentalist Romy Church. The artist’s third LP in as many years is full of landscape ambience and a strong sense of place. Meandering, atmospheric stretches are interspersed with buoyant bedroom pop. It’s like a hike or a bushwalk, with each song a landmark, a little oasis in the long, ambient march.
I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle (Dinosaur City)
I went for a run the other day and I put I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle on in my headphones. It was one of the first days of spring and it was sunny. Birds singing, new shoots, warm breeze. Truly glorious after a shitty winter in Melbourne. Anyway, I’m doing my thing and listening to the album, which starts slow. I can hear what sounds like someone moseying over to a guitar before picking it up, scratching their chin, shuffling about, some gentle tremolo begins, leaves rustle, birds sing outside.
So, I’m running along and I have this moment where I’m not quite sure where the recorded sounds end and the sounds of the real world begin. Is that whoosh the whoosh of the trees around me, or a recorded whoosh? The lines of distinction between the two blurred and without knowing exactly when, I had become immersed. The album has this permeable quality. It caught me off guard.
This permeability is reflected in Church’s approach to making the album. He’s described the process as being like putting together a collage or a sketchbook. Influences appear and withdraw; recordings gel with live guitar; drum samples couple with birdsong. It never stays in one position for too long, but neither is it in a rush. It’s as if the album is a series of arrivals and departures.
The long intro of opener ‘Beautiful Hills’ walks us into the song ‘Later’, while the melody and harmony of ‘Navel’ build to a climax before taking a sharp turn into minutes of oscillating noise. Singles ‘Zero’ and ‘The Whistler’ mark focal points on the ebb and flow, where lines converge for a moment before dispersing again.
e4444e – ‘Zero’
I can hear Elliot Smith in the doubled intimacy of the vocal. I’m also hearing The Olivia Tremor Control. Not in a very direct way, but the spirit of lo-fi experimentation and the incorporation of noise and field recordings leads me to draw a line between Drawing a Circle and the Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle.
Church goes inward in his songwriting and occasionally wanders into the esoteric. The music and lyrics are full of depth and contemplation but exist just outside clear meaning for a listener.
“The unfiltered sound of people relating to their instruments is beautiful,” e4444e says about one of his inspirational touchstones for the album, a track of Laotian cannon singing. “The purest music. Pure musing.” It’s possible that this obscurity was a conscious choice, not wanting to distract the listener from their own inward journey by keeping lucid meaning at bay.
I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle is a journey record, walking through psychic landscapes on consciously unclear footing. It lulls you, taking up the space at the periphery of your attention. At its most ambient, it is completely unobtrusive, defined by its inconspicuousness – and, like Eno’s Music for Airports or the Flow State podcast, defined by its self-regulatory function of mindfulness and calm.
Church echoes this sentiment when talking about the more ambient songs on the record. “Those recordings were things I would listen to while I wrote on Microsoft Word or drew or just sat in my bedroom […] I can still listen to it and get something from it, get a calming effect.”
But, in the case of Music for Airports, it all leads up to arrival at the gate and aeroplane departure. And so it is for I Spend All Day Drawing a Circle: the album shines most when the songs arrive and demand your attention.