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Capricorn Brian Coney , December 14th, 2021 09:49

Mark Waldron-Hyden of The Sunshine Factory goes solo with a suite of suite of cosmic freak-outs and lulling ambience

As far as convention-shattering Irish music goes, Cork has always gone a little further. It’s never been more glaringly obvious. From Mantua and The Altered Hours, to Fixity and Arthur It Is, the island’s largest and southernmost county is teeming with artists not simply pushing the envelope but actively incinerating it. Mark Waldron-Hyden also comfortably fits the mould. The multi-instrumentalist’s debut LP as Kineograph, Capricorn is a rewarding exercise in unlearning, inspired as much by nature and traffic sounds as it is kosmische and free-form jazz.

Drumming in psych-leaning outfit The Sunshine Factory, Waldron-Hyden has shone in metronomy, punctuating Dingerian rigor with Liebzeit-like flair. On his own watch, his palette – both instrumental and conceptual – veers into probing new territory. Recorded in the mist-cloaked Nagle Mountains in North Cork during lockdown, and mixed and mastered in Lisbon, where he is currently based, Capricorn captures the real-time evolution of Waldron-Hyden embracing spontaneity and playing with the illusion of music being out of sync.

Originally conceived as a follow-up to last year’s Future Life Continuity, an LP released under his own name that won support from radio stations in cities including Istanbul, Tallinn, and Tbilisi, Capricorn, Waldron-Hyden tells us, “quickly gained a mind of its own.” From the off, it hits like a clean break. While opener ‘Cavearn’ layers tumbling rhythms with bursts of keys and guitar, single ‘I Can See 3 People’ teases bass and bleeps en route to a deft lo-fi stomp. It may sound a touch wayward – scattershot even – but returning to it and heeding how motifs overlap to reveal anomalies and interactions is a real pay-off. Here and throughout Capricorn, I’m frequently reminded of autostereograms, those 2D images with repeating patterns that, as if by magic, hide underlying 3D images.

For all its loose, carte blanche energy, Waldron-Hyden’s free music doesn’t neglect form, not least how it takes shape and inspires beyond recorded sound. Rhythmically, he says, a primary influence was a desire to “emulate rhythms encountered naturally throughout the day to day, be it in the countryside or in the city.” Beneath backwashed vocals and an almighty groove, the extended guitar shapes of ‘ThinkingFeeling’ evoke the distant din of rush hour. ‘PresancePleasance’, meanwhile, calls to mind Moebius’s more gossamer efforts. Combined, the track’s droning organ and lapping ebbs could feasibly be a paean to its creator briefly losing himself by a creak in the Nagle Mountains at sundown.

Waldron-Hyden’s finesse as an artist – and a drummer, in particular – comes to the fore as Capricorn winds down. Whereas ‘PacketCity’ is an entrancing peak in the vein of early Beak>, closer ‘TimeMoves’ delivers a sublime sound bath of swarming ambient drone. A convulsing synth chord fades into nothingness and Waldron-Hyden’s decision to assume the Kineograph moniker for Capricorn feels felicitous. As the technical name for a flipbook, which convey pictures in progressing forms of movement, it speaks to how his free-form music functions as a whole. Like trying, and perhaps struggling, to glean intention from composite parts of a Don Cherry or Merzbow record, Capricorn is surely best enjoyed as a totality. It’s all in sync if you let it be.