Electro-acoustic musician Brian Allen Simon (aka Anenon) is an artist who has always absorbed place and context, destinations that have shifted with each release. ‘Petrol’ from 2016 bustled and boomed with the kinetic energies of his home-town LA while two years later he took residence in the serene Tuscan hills to produce ‘Tongue’, an album that whispered beauty from every elegiac sequence. Now Anenon returns from other excursions as framing for a new album ‘Moons Melt Milk Light’, his first for Tonal Union and a recording of maybe his deepest reflections so far.
What emerges here is music that speaks less of a landscape or a moment in time and more of movement through spaces, from London, to France, around Europe but also across the US, from Maine and back to the East coast. Anenon’s impressions and memories sparked by such experiences are at the foundation of these delicately glazed pieces of restrained, evocative music. The result is in ‘Moons Melt Milk Light’ we have a recording which embodies fragility in both name and sonic realisation.
It is also an album of bold resolution, bucking the expectations that have grown around immersive music such as the density and layering. For this album Anenon withdraws from the temptations of electronic shading and the formalities compositional structure. The music here is seriously improvisational, stripped back to three key instruments, piano, sax and bass clarinet, while keeping a focus on melodic agility.
The opening trio of scene-setting pieces work calmly within these parameters. The spiralling flight of Anenon’s tenor breathes air immediately into Untitled Skies. Fluttering, free but somehow vulnerable, with traces of Alabaster DePlume lyricism and the great Getatchew Mekurya’s Ethio mystique. The transition to the contrasting piano is uncluttered, around a single note, until we are left with a soft keyed sequence that seems to be searching. This combination is reversed on the album’s title track, a strolling piano pattern underpinned by restrained tenor and bass clarinet foundations. Allen Simon’s palate may be intentionally restricted throughout the whole recording but that doesn’t limit the vivid images it allows, on this track what he has described as the ‘autumnal milky quality of light at dusk’ in his LA neighbourhood. Similarly graphic Maine Piano needs just a careful, brief etude matched only with lone bird song to portray a coastal reverence and wandering loneliness.
Anenon has often used field recordings to embellish the detail in his tune-craft but on ‘Moons Melt Milk Light’ they seem to be a prompt or prologue to the memory that these situational sounds provoke. As It Happens begins with French café conversations before the piano tip toes in, feeling out for some intricate patterns which resolve in a sweetly pirouetting folk dance. With a filmic sweep and romantic blush, Champeix is welcomed by outdoor rain fall before the sax and piano twist and wind together inside. The sounds of the city return for Sightless Eyes (N16), the gulls and other bird song from the waking hum of London remembered in an emotional departing conversation between Anenon’s sax and sonorous clarinet.
Allen Simon has talked about this album expressing the ‘deep acceptance’ of loss as part of the richness of life and the music on ‘Moons Melt Milk Light’ maintains an uncanny poise between melancholy and contentment. It reconsiders the notion of what beautiful music can be through careful, gentle persuasion. The approach to recording here, improvised, first takes with restricted tinkering, helps the listener get drawn in by the honesty and raw nerve that Anenon exposes through these tunes. The spat, visceral sax tones of Night Painting II, the urgent rising pulse of piano runs on Hand Poetry, the edge towards discordance and bellowing skronk during A Million Birds II, all exemplify the spontaneity which gives this album its edge.
Contemporary reference points might be the Colin Stetson’s physiological-sax expressionism or James Heather’s spacious piano pieces but Anenon’s music takes its own path to arrive at similar absorbing spaces. There is no extravaganza needed here, this is music that makes space through its own constellation of striking vignettes and illuminating moments. Prepare to revive your sense of wonder.
Get Your copy of ‘Moon Melt Milk Light’ by Anenon from your local record shop or direct from Tonal Union HERE