Aperus: Lie Symmetry
by Peter Thelen, Expose Online
One might be forgiven for not knowing about Aperus, which is the musical project of New Mexico based composer and photographer Brian McWilliams (and do check out the outstanding photography on his website, it seems he is truly gifted in more than one field). The eight pieces on Lie Symmetry are best described as fluid ambient creations that blend analog synth drones, working in multiple layers of sound, following dark and mysterious paths, colorful at times, pale at others, along with processed sound samples seeming to be both organic and industrial in origin, sometimes looped into irregular rhythmic patterns. This is not your standard floating ambient sound, nor anything that could be considered pretty; one might use terms like explorative and experimental to describe what s going down here, and most definitely captivating and interesting. As a kid I remember a water tunnel that used to go deep under an eight-lane freeway, and from a point midway between the two ends one could hear sounds like this, echoes from a train track on the opposite side, the trickle of water passing through, or the deep rumble of cars and trucks as they passed overhead. The sounds would take shape but they were never what they seemed to be, bouncing off the ribbed walls of the culvert deep underground, or off the stone walls of the old tunnel that existed before the freeway " the only thing missing were the synth drones, but those were easy enough to imagine. Some of the cuts here feature metallic sounds that seem like the sound of some heavy object hitting the outside of an empty cistern, as heard from the inside, with occasional deep pulses punctuating the sonic strata. There are many other sounds that are captured herewithin, but (besides the synth washes and drones) nothing that resembles any kind of traditional acoustic or electric instrumentation, and that makes it extremely compelling and interesting all the way through. At times I am reminded of the approach used by Russian composer Artemiy Artemiev on his third release Point of Intersection, or his collaboration with Phillip B. Klingler Dreams in Moving Space. This is a very textural ambient approach with a lot of interesting and curious sonic events that will hold the listener s interest and not put you to sleep. Play it in an endless repeat loop.
by Richard Gurtler, Bratislava, Slovak Republic
The sole protagonist behind Aperus, Brian McWilliams, has released this album through his Geophonic Records during June 2018. I had the great pleasure to meet Brian a few months earlier in Tucson and Santa Fe when he showed me some of the accidental landscape photographs to be used for this recording, so I was really curious about the final outcome. Yeah, no matter if Aperus or Remanence (sharing on this one creative insignias with John Phipps), both these projects were always exceptionally distinctive in their sonic and visual expressions. "Lie Symmetry" is no exception, the glass mastered CD, limited to 300 copies, is packaged in a double pocketed plastic sleeve featuring two separate 6-panel fold-out inserts, one matte, one satin, with extensive liner notes and already mentioned photographs. Mastering credits go to Ron Sunsinger, Jan Roos and Jason Goodyear.
6-plus minutes long "VLA 1" reveals this thrillingly exuberant journey with an array of marching percussive elements, some nearly jazzy-infused, blended with radio transmission field recordings and monochromatic drone gliding serenely above. I believe VLA means here Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico. Another coincident here, I visited this breathtakingly immersing place with 28 colossal radio telescopes on the Plains of San Agustin only a few days after meeting with Brian. "VLA 1" is uniquely immersing and intricately disturbing. "Frozen, Broken" sounds quite appropriately to its name. Meditatively engulfing bells are exquisitely juxtaposed here and there by some intangibly arising intrusions, while the remote drone is hanging and nuancing atop. "When The Mountains Wear Black Hats", I love this title so much, moves to more perplexing, yet minimal sceneries, where quietly emerging murmurs are delightfully illuminated by unfathomably vague rumbles as well as by introspectively cinematic beacons. Wow, this is a really jaw-dropping listening experience, awesome soundsculpting, Brian! Shorter "Himalaya" is driven by high-pitched rhythmic patterns, mesmerizingly spicy and ear-tickling with a gentle touch of Tibetan fragrances. "VLA 2" continues the ride mapped on "VLA 1", but the flatlined drone is more buzzingly disruptive. At 9:02 the longest track on the album, "Marsh Lake, October" delves deeply into subaqueously echoed and ambiguously traversing domains, mysteriously submerging, where various metallic rumbles and eerie squeaks bridge with softly glimmering and elusively secluded clickety-clacks. "Ephemeral River" is propelled by enigmatically isolated heartbeats, while permeating cyber-tech sparkles, transient locomotions and escalating tensions add a peculiarly flavored feel. "Unfrozen, Unbroken" closes the ride with shadowy bells, warmly gliding meridians and glimpsing bass reflections.
48 and a half minutes long "Lie Symmetry" is spectacularly transporting recording with a massive amount of rewards, it's extraordinarily colored exploration just like all those unexpectedly occurring photographs. Abstractly enveloping and sophisticatedly polished, yet organically provoking! Top-notch sound quality with fascinatingly engrossing visuals on top of all that. Maybe I am not the biggest fan of the type of packaging chosen for this release, but "Lie Symmetry" CD is a truly magnificent release from beginning to end! And the same can be easily written about the complete discography of Aperus and Remanence. Another great job, Brian!!!
by Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
While the name Aperus sounded very familiar it turned out that I reviewed two releases involving Brian McWilliams, which is 'Tumbleweed Obfuscated By Camera Failure' (Vital Weekly 397) and 'Ecotone' (Vital Weekly 885), which he recorded with James Johnson. It is not easy to describe in a few words what the titles means, but it has to do with transitions and I guess these transitions are within the music. The question Aperus asked himself is "how do I make the music sound like the artwork and does the artwork look like the music?" and see what the outcome can be. As before Aperus uses a variety of electronic devices, in the form of synthesizers, but also guitar, shortwave radio, drum loops, and field recordings made in various American states, Arizona, Michigan and New Mexico, and the cover explains what was taped (bells, chimes, telescope, kiln, water, waves, insects, cranes, utility pipes and spring drum loop). The field recordings have a mostly supportive role here, and the instruments dominate the pieces here. Ambient is surely one of those words that one could tag to this music, and like before the influence of Lustmord is quite apparent. That means a considerable amount of reverb is used in the music and slow movements on the synthesizers the main progress. Sometimes it all comes to a bouncing rhythm, such as in the opener 'VLA 1', but these pieces are in a minority here. It is all more about setting the mood to 'dark' and perhaps 'vague', in which you close your eyes and see some flickering of light, the shimmering of sound and what could be, should you believe in that, some sort of haunting presence. The cover of this package shows some fine feedback photographs that fit the music quite well. I couldn't say if this was a 'proper' translation of the music but it works together quite well. This is overall a great production; not something you haven't heard before, but still a very fine work. (FdW)
by Inferno Sound Diaries, Side-Line
Background/Info: Behind Aperus is hiding Brian McWilliams who s active as a musician (still involved with Remanence), photographer and running Geophonic Records. McWilliams is living in the high desert of New Mexico (USA). He already released several productions and this year unleashed his newest creation.
Content: Lie Symmetry is carried by down-tempo rhythms, which are mixed with a noticeable ambient sound and an experimental touch on top. Sometimes a tiny ritual-like (Himalaya) and always revealing mysterious sound atmospheres, the tracks have something cinematographic-like. The tracks have been progressively built up, reaching certain climax at Ephemeral River.
I first of all like the diversity of the work; this is not just an ambient or soundtrack-inspired work. It's much more than this, but definitely inspired by ambient work. The tracks have been composed with great sound treatments and field recordings. It sometimes creates a strong visual appeal, giving me the view of an obscure sonic labyrinth. A dark sensation created by anguished crashes, echoing sound treatments and low, resonating vibes are coming to an ecstasies at the aforementioned Ephemeral River. Last, but not least there are interesting infos about the album, instruments, field recordings in the small booklet.
Conclusion: Aperus is a great discovery, mixing different sonic ideas, which will appeal for demanding and exigent ambient lovers.
Best songs: Ephemeral River, Marsh Lake, October, When The Mountains Wear Black Hats.
by Steve Mecca, Chain D.L.K.
Aperus is the ambient project of Brian McWilliams of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and 'Lie Symmetry' is his fourth album under this name. He also works in another ambient project called Remanence with John Phipps. He is a photographer as well, and took the abstract photos used for the cover and inserts of this CD. I'm unfamiliar with any of his previous work so I can't compare this album to anything Aperus has done before. The album's title, 'Lie Symmetry was inspired by a radio interview with physicist Alan Tennant that McWilliams heard where Tennant was explaining his study of transitions in the quantum states of deeply cooled ions, with the exact quantum transitional point being known as lie symmetry. (The math and physics of the equation(s) are beyond me so I can offer no further insight.) Later, McWilliams took some accidental pictures with his phone/camera in his pocket which turned out to be abstract landscapes. This was his own "lie symmetry" which solidified the concept for the album. The music here leans toward dark ambient, but like the photos is not devoid of light. This is an electro-acoustic work employing both electronics and field recordings gathered from different locations in New Mexico, Arizona and Michigan. Those sounds include bells, chimes, telescope, kiln, water, waves, insects, cranes, utility pipes, and spring drum loop. Besides an array of synthesizers, McWilliams also employs shortwave radio, ebow guitar, drum loops, wind chimes, thunder drums, rattles and sample manipulation. The opening track, "VLA 1" consists of an intriguing march-like little rhythm, drones, birds, and shortwave radio, sounding less dark ambient but more mysterious. "Frozen, Broken" is predominantly comprises of bellish tones with an undercurrent of dark ambient drones and some lapping water. Nice but 7+ minutes of that was a bit much and I didn't sense it going anywhere. "When the Mountains Wear Black Hats" sort of sounds like the title of a David Lynch Twin Peaks episode, but the music is much less jarring or malevolent than Lynch's take on dark ambient, and has a near shoegaze quality to it. Really liked that one. "Himalaya" puts some rhythm back into the mix and is gamelanesque. Another rhythm track on "VLA 2," this one slow and caterpillar-like accompanied by a multi-timbral drone, sounding once again processional... "Marsh Lake, October" can't be characterized by those parameters even though it has a certain aquatic theme, there are many sonic aspects employed in its composition in a number of ways. So far, this is the richest piece on the album. "Ephemeral River" has a gently pulsing sort of looped rhythm that is quite hypnotic. This rhythm continues throughout the track, occasionally accompanied by a sub-rhythm and with other dark ambient elements is quite engaging. Last track, "Unfozen, Unbroken" brings back the bells underpinned with tranquil synth drones. What I like about "Lie Symmetry" is that the tone leans toward the dark side without actually getting heavy or oppressive. One could almost call it Dark Ambient Light, or even Grey Ambient. Some tracks could have evolved more, and perhaps a few less bells, but overall, a nice work.
by Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion
A strange but at the same time intriguing set of accidentally made landscape photographs by a cell phone grace the cover of Lie Symmetry, a title derived from the math used to describe the stunning visual patterns that occur when cobalt ions are cooled down to absolute zero.
Sonically, this 48-minute/8-track ambient recording covers a peculiar mix of environmental, drone and electronic elements with a dominant role of field recordings (e.g. grainy, jazzy-esk rhythmic drum loops on VLA 1 and VLA 2 or insects and animals making up the most part of Marsh Lake, October ) in the overall sound. The drone evocations and darkening underworlds lean strong towards Roach s deep organic netherworlds, creating overall mysterious, nocturnal and haunting atmospheres turning out best on the Loren Nerell-ish Frozen, Broken and the strong tracks Marsh Lake , Ephemeral River and Unfrozen, Unbroken found at the albums end.
Due to its peculiar nature I gave Lie Symmetry several extra spins... ambient fans should check out this spacious sounding, well-mastered recording.
By TJ Norris, Toneshift
Geophonic Records has released the latest ambient record from Aperus (Brian McWilliams) entitled Lie Symmetry (CD/DL). With the additional mastering assistance of Ron Sunsinger, Jan Roos and Jason Goodyear the recording took two years to complete. The eight tracks kicks off with VLA 1, and we are in a hollow tunnel with low range drone tones and perplexing electronic effects. A beat is formed from scaly parts/pieces, rattles and crunchy walkie talkie voices. Frozen, Broken begins in buoyed silences, just like being on a harbor just before high tide on an overcast day. The wind is slowly growing, and the chime is cast, fronting the long line of coastal space. The reverberation on When The Mountains Wear Black Hats changes the atmosphere even moreso to one casting spirits, conjuring memory, and otherwise filling in a blank scape with line sketches of what may estimate a horizonline. It s pure, raw, ambient.
Drums and strings elevate the air with a new rhythm in tribal shades on Himalaya. There s a folky awkwardness to the twang of the track, as its courted by minimal effects. The repetitive wooden percussive elements of VLA 2 balance a sober sensibility with a touch of mid 90 s Stars of the Lid. It s a disquieting track, shaded in ochre hues. Then comes a shift via Marsh Lake, October, it s a specious soundtrack, an illuminated scene from a ghost story that s part low-fi dissonance and obliquely misshapen. A long hall of enigmatic echoes and muffled motors.
In the final stretch comes the low roar of Ephemeral River. Paced diaphanous layers of drone build gradually as new percussive details are transmitted. The roar grows, and recedes. A certain sense of power looms yet seems ruptured. In the finale with Unfrozen, Unbroken " the supposed polar to the earlier track Frozen, Broken " a lightness by this opposite starts to dawn. Are we coming to or going away from the shoreline? It s hard to determine, but the ambiguity gives this its strength and character. It releases with it a certain sense of unrest, finding a quiet, self-reflective end.