Negative Space is the debut full-length LP from No Lands, the recording project of Brooklyn-based electronic musician and sound artist Michael Hammond. The music of No Lands exists in the realm between sonic experimentation and traditional song craft, a space that will be familiar to fans of Brian Eno, Fennesz, and late Talk Talk.
The record was declared Best Electronic Album of 2014 by The Brooklyn Rail, and was also included on Tome to the Weather Machine, Will Stratton, and Ted Gioia's Best of 2014 lists.
As a sound designer, producer, and programmer, Hammond has fostered a lifelong obsession with sound. Growing up in West Tennessee in the 90s, Hammond first began his recording experiments on the family desktop computer, printing his sprawling opuses on CD-Rs and pushing the limits of primitive processors.
Later, Hammond spent time creating custom music software and soldering together speakers in a search for new sounds. Studying with visionary composer and instrument builder Dan Trueman, Hammond further honed his technical craft. On Negative Space, some of these tools are employed, along with an arsenal of guitars, vintage synthesizers, drum machines, and processed vocals to create pristine and enveloping sound worlds.
Written and recorded over the course of 3 years, the album is an atlas of the sounds that have preoccupied Hammond. While the majority of the instruments were performed by Hammond, the album features cameos from Anthony LaMarca (current touring member of The War on Drugs and previously a member of St. Vincent), Aaron Roche (who performs regularly with R. Stevie Moore and Chris Schlarb), and Jay Hammond.
When performing live, Hammond is joined by these musicians. The four-piece becomes a digital hive mind of wires and devices, with each individual's vocals and instruments filtered through the central brain of Hammond's computer.
In visual art, the concept of negative space refers to the areas around and between the subject of a work of art. The auditory equivalent of negative space is not immediately apparent. Is it silence (as John Cage might conceive of it)? Or maybe noise? On Negative Space, No Lands plumbs the depths of these questions with a patience and intensity that is rare. Ultimately, the album is a document of this obsessive relationship with both sound and song, the genesis of which spans the course of three years and a hurricane.
Negative Space consists of 9 sonic environments that range from ambient soundscapes to sprawling song structures. The album drifts from one environment to the next as if navigating a dream state. Swirling digital textures give way momentarily to tightly arranged songs. Some tracks are cut off abruptly and swallowed whole (see the end of “Pretender” or “City”) while others transfix the listener into a deep hypnosis (“Sleep Atlas”).
Much of the music for Negative Space was written and recorded following a period of itinerancy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The flood swept through Hammond’s apartment and studio space in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn and leaked a particular feeling of unease and rootlessness into his music. The watery world that displaced him became a renewed object of fascination, kindling a nascent obsession with all things aquatic.
Visions of vast bodies of water and civilization lost pervade the album: on “Seawall,” Hammond sings: "Sea flowing westward, reveal the streets of gold." At the same time, the name No Lands itself suggests both a warning and a fantasy, a liminal state where blissful glitch sets the stage for a synthesizer melody desperately gasping for its final breath (“Icefisher”). The No Lands sound is born of the clash between the creative and destructive qualities of water, where the difference between the displacement of a flood and the zeal of an afternoon swim is never quite clear.
Negative Space was mixed by Alexander Overington and mastered by Joe Lambert. In addition to digital and CD, the album will be available on 12" vinyl, including a limited edition run of clear vinyl.