Bay Area multi-instrumentalist Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune, et al) is poised to release her third full-length album, Diminution, in just a matter of days. Out Friday, April 13, Diminution is a haunting opus in which layers of ethereal instrumentation craft a dense, otherworldly listening experience. Utilizing droning soundscapes, minimal piano, and her own voice, Abdul-Rauf‘s spacious, textural music sits at the crossroads between beauty and melancholia.
In anticipation of its release, we reached out to Abdul-Rauf to give us the rundown of the upcoming effort. Check out a special track-by-track breakdown of Diminution after the break.
1. Diminution – A Satie-influenced piano and trumpet improvisation. As the album came together, this became the “mother” track from which the rest of the album was born.
2. Life Leaving – Using a piano motif from “Diminution”, this song is about watching a family member die, and how I imagine the death experience to be their the perspective – an entire life of memories flashing through their mind in those final seconds…
3. Causeway – Built upon train whistle samples from a Berkeley train yard at night, the lyrics speak of a desolate place, as if the place were an animate being, peacefully witnessing the coming and going of human life and commotion.
4. Abjure – This is the “Diminution” piano track being fed through a synth, with guitar improvisation. Images of church bells, quiet souls leaving the house of god for good.
5. Wayward – This was from a piece I co-wrote with my Ionophore bandmate Ryan Honaker’s solo project, Souls and Cities, that he titled “Hidden Trails”. I extracted my horn and vocals parts and built something new with them, adding train samples to the intro. The vocals at the end are the story of two people perpetually misunderstanding each other.
6. Self-Recognition (for Pauline Oliveros) – This song was written in memory of the master herself, a constant inspiration to me in my continued studies of sound and space. A copy of her most famous book, “Deep Listening” was sitting on my night stand as I played back an old piano recording of mine, in reverse. I had the urge to open the book to the first page, press record, and start reading those two paragraphs, “…what is consciousness?” – these are the spoken word passages sprinkled throughout this swirling piece.
7. Hindsight – The densest piece on the album, with low swelling e-bow guitar tracks and a horn solo floating over a repetitive acoustic guitar line. The overlapping vocals build to a crescendo, singing lyrics that reminisce about bad life decisions, but look to the present from a place of strength and clarity.
8. Light Rising – This came from horn parts that I contributed to a song for Ryan Honaker’s noise hop project, Divisor, “Lights Out”. I wrote the lyrics during a brief period of unemployment, when I had applied for a graveyard shift job (which I thankfully did not end up needing to take), and had imagined how life would be without ever seeing daylight, except for the sun slowly rising as I would nod off to sleep.
Diminution will be released April 13 (digital) and May 11 (CD) via Malignant Records. LP edition to also be released on May 11 via Cloister Recordings and Black Horizons.
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