- The story of Chris Douglas has a few holes in it. He's been making music since the late '80s, with his first record appearing in 1992. Since then he's released and performed under names like O.S.T., Harry Rod, Wooli Bodin and Scald Rougish. We know he's lived in Detroit and has worked with Mike Banks and the late James Stinson, and that he threw ambient techno parties as a teenager in San Francisco. These days, he lives in Berlin. Interviews with him aren't exactly illuminating. All we've really got to go on is the music.
Niaiw Ot Vile is Douglas's fourth release as Dalglish, and it's a world unto itself. Just look at the title, or try to pronounce it. Track names like "Ciaradh" and "Oidhche" are Scots Gaelic, while "Noscriu" seems to pop up in Catalan, French and Italian texts. Urban Dictionary tells me "Sclunt" has a very aggressive meaning (you could even say demeaning), while "Donsfe" seems to have no meaning at all. As with Autechre or Aphex Twin, the words used to title these pieces of abstract music are themselves abstract. Non-words that sound like real words, mash-ups of half-forgotten languages, phonetic spelling, dropped vowels—it all challenges any straight-forward interpretation, pulling instead on instinct and memory without forcing any conclusion.
The tracks on Niaiw Ot Vile embody the same idea. Musically, they all fall into one of two loose camps. On one hand, you've got the dissonant, more rhythmically adventurous tracks ("Venpin," "Noscriu"), where layers of noisy percussion coalesce into overwhelming wholes. Others, like "Set Nuin" and "Oidhche," are far more minimal and ambient, floating along like Eleh or Stars Of The Lid. "Ciaradh," which arrives half way through the album, sees both sides meet in the middle to beautiful effect. On all of them, Douglas leaves his stamp, a particular type of chord progression that he's repeatedly drawn to, sometimes covered over by frantic percussion or synthesiser bleeps, sometimes left to stand alone, delicate and exposed.
It seems foolish to draw any kind of conclusion about an album as self-consciously open-ended as this. In a way, it's like the aural equivalent of Ad Reinhart's black "ultimate" paintings—a purely aesthetic exercise, shorn of all subject matter. We have no choice but to take it as we find it.
07. Seit Nuin