released February 25, 2020
As the fourth Lowered-album, Music For Empty Rooms has a more expanded sonic palette to include piano, cello, tam tam, singing bowls and room recordings. However it retains the bleakly ascetic sound of previous works.
Developing themes of existential isolation that were explored on debut Lost Seas, new album Music For Empty Rooms takes personal experience as subject matter. The ‘empty rooms’ reference Gowers’ move to a new house in a strange town following the death of his wife. As such it is a meditation on loss, dislocation and the silence of absence.
piano, cello, singing bowls, tam-tam, room tone.
all sounds recorded acoustically, no artificial effects have been added.
composed and recorded in various rooms by chris gowers during 2018 and 2019 in cambridgeshire and west yorkshire, england.
mastered by fraser mcgowan, september 2019.
artwork by chris gowers.
thanks to wim lecluyse and fraser mcgowan. eternal thanks to jo.
Utilising just Piano, Cello, Singing Bowls, Tam Tam and Room Tone, Chris Gowers creates beautiful and meditative drones under the name Lowered, the music drifting and slightly melancholy, stretching time and re-creating the space around you.
Featuring just three tracks, opener “Sound in this Room” is a 16 minute devotion the different tones of the instrument working together to create some amazing sounds that become even more unbelievable when you realise that it is all acoustic with no electronic treatments at all, something that is hard to fathom on first hearing. Halfway through the track, the sounds have dissolved into a soft white noise and rumble that is very soothing, the music almost invisible to the ears, the track slowly coming back into focus as the Cello adds some deep drones over which the Piano slowly marches to the inevitable conclusion, the white noise shrouding them both as it fades away.
Calling a track “Emptiness” gives the listener a good idea of the atmosphere of the piece, especially if you have just heard track one but it does not prepare you for the stark beauty to be found as the drone rises up your spine, Singing Bowls and the Tam Tam levitating together over eight glorious minutes that are over far too soon, the nuances of the sounds creating something very special.
Beginning with a slow Piano that chimes and calls, “Distance Flooded Us” is another beautiful piece that works best if you lie on the floor and let it just wash over you, ending an astonishing album that will become an old friend, the music timeless and engaging, something to be treasured in these uncertain times. (Simon Lewis)
Dissonance is often shunned in favour of harmony – you’ll never see too much of it utilised in popular music or, for instance, appearing in the UK’s Top 40 chart – but it’s a crucial part of music, and of life itself. These jagged sounds are just as relevant as their sunshine-tanned neighbours, perhaps even, from time to time, being a necessary part of music and giving voice to important feelings that can’t be expressed in any other way.
Major harmonies can’t sugar-coat or represent all of life’s experiences, because everyone suffers from time to time. People want to cover up dissonance, turn their backs to it, and pretend it doesn’t exist. But dissonance and harmony are siblings, and they’re closer than you’d think.
A normal day can quickly spiral into a nightmare, and there’s something obscure and sour about these off-key janglings, a gathering shadow forming at the edge of silence and dust. Change can happen suddenly and without warning.
That was the case with ‘Music for Empty Rooms’.
The empty rooms in question refer to Lowered’s move to a new house (a house, not a home) in a strange town following the death of his wife. Primarily, it’s an album of absence and grief. Its unfathomable silence is louder than the music could ever be. Where once her presence was felt, there is now nothing.
‘Distance Flooded Us’, the third and final piece, ushers in a rootless piano and an uncomfortable, sustained cello. The distance has flooded the couple; one cannot cross over to embrace the other. Even if there is an afterlife, their longed-for reunion will still be delayed, and it won’t resemble anything that once existed on Earth.
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you might never see that person ever again. Never see her smile or the way her hair shone in the morning light.
Loss is dissonance in emotional form. If love plays out in a major key, then loss, its opposite, must occupy the minor. Piano, cello, tam tam, singing bowls, and recordings of near-silent rooms are all a part of the record’s fabric, but the intermittent notes can barely string a melody together, just clunking at irregular intervals, as if shocked and grieving, with no appetite for anything else.
Lowered can not only imitate but present symptoms of grief and longing and despair and loneliness that emerge after the loss of a loved one – be it a relationship, a physical death, or a closing of a friendship – they are all deaths in their own way, all heartbreakers, all endings.
A grey, hulking emptiness and an all-pervading silence is starkly imprinted upon the music. But silence also makes for a greater resonance, and when the music does come in, shaky and distraught, it’s made all the more powerful for the music’s mute nature.
At a time of loss, both inner and outer worlds are left to writhe in turmoil. The world’s dimmer lights are turned down; things become substantially bleaker. The world becomes colourless; colour bleeds out of everything. Existential isolation replaces the comfort of her presence: the new season is in, and it’s drab, grey, and everlasting.
The middle track introduces a long, tired drone, sitting bleary-eyed in the middle of the album to further increase the sense of isolation and a loneliness that ushers in a cold, numbing draught of air which brings on an emotional hypothermia. While there appears to be no escape, you have to adapt and process the change. There’s no alternative but to grind through the period of grief, loss, and dislocation.
If you’re going through hell, keep going. (James Catchpole)
The musical project of Chris Gowers is the follow-up to Karina ESP, of which I recently reviewed a split 7" with Morc Records label boss Circle Bross (and noted this is a small world indeed). Both of these projects deal/dealt with mood music, but with Lowered the music takes a more introspective turn. This is his fourth full-length release (see also Vital Weekly 1117 and 1027) and his sources are singing bowls, piano, tam-tam, cello and "mostly room tones". You could call this drone music, but with a few interesting different qualities. One of that is the use of acoustic instruments, which float into space. It is not easy to figure out how he does it, but these instruments might be amplified and the sound is picked up in space; maybe there are loops, created on rusty to -to-reel tapes? Again, I am not sure there. But along with the acoustic instruments, some additional hiss or hum is being picked up, which creates an excellent additional atmospheric quality to the music. It is the sound of an empty room indeed; perhaps not so empty with the occasionally played sparse tones, but beyond the decay, what remains is next to nothing. This is some great music, full of Zen-like meditative quality, even for those
people who aren't into the whole meditation aspect of it (just like me, I guess). I have no idea about the circumstances under which this was produced but it all has quite a sorrowful ring to it. His best work as Lowered so far. (Frans DeWaard)