The Dying Submariner (A Concerto For Piano And Reverberation In Four Movements)

Andrew Liles

The Dying Submariner (A Concerto For Piano And Reverberation In Four Movements)

Year: 2006
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (MT110A, MT111 & MT110B)
Format: Limited Edition Double CD / CD / LP

THE DYING SUBMARINER (A Concerto for Piano & Reverberation in Four Movements)
Standard CD version.

The Dying Submariner - Part i
The Dying Submariner - Part ii
The Dying Submariner - Part iii
The Dying Submariner - Part iv

Limited Edition Contained Bonus Disc.

(A Concerto for Bowed Guitar
and Reverberation in Three Movements)

The Dead Submariner - Part i
The Dead Submariner - Part ii
The Dead Submariner - Part iii

Also released in a Limited Edition (100 Copies) 2 track vinyl version as...

(Amalgamation, Codicil and Appendix)

Version One

Version Two


Aptly subtitled “A Concerto For Piano And Reverberation In Four Movements”, The Dying Submariner is a hypnotically simple album from occasional Nurse With Wound collaborator Andrew Liles. While there is no spoken narrative, the sequence of events is perfectly clear: the nautical protagonist finds his bathysphere cast free from its tether to the surface world, and eventually plunges into the ocean’s depths. Liles guides this grim tale through numerous different moods, using polyphonous tone clusters and arpeggiated hammerings to connote the shift from dreamy weightlessness into noirish tension, slowly pushing towards a forbidding chill. The final piano notes of the album emerge from cavernous reverb and leaden sustain, both curiously playful and drunkenly stumbling – a comedic twist of fate for the luckless submariner, or his final thoughts flashing before his eyes as he nears his demise? Jim Haynes

Written by Lucas Schleicher
Monday, 31 July 2006
Andrew Liles continues to take the familiar and turn it into something warped, something weird. Now, however, he’s doing it in a perhaps unexpected way. Concertos normally have three movements and are typically composed for a solo instrument and an orchestra; the piano is the only proper instrument on this record. Liles, however, makes sense of it all plays the piano in a way that has me looking at the instrument in a whole new light.
A dying submariner, lost in some dismal cinema of murky water, frightening aquatic life, and the weight of death literally on his shoulders is all the artwork for this release sugggests to me. The blind eyes, exposed teeth, and pale complexion on the cover are supposed to say a little something about the dive suit seen inside the packaging. When those first hidden piano notes begin to rumble like a monster rising from the depths, it is easy to think that the rest of this album is going to be a dark ride, the first and last adventure of someone who is unaware of the danger lurking below.
The Dying Submariner…, however, reminds me more of a classical fantasia, a whimsical adventure worthy of far more color and infused with a life equally as complex as the zoology of creatures suggested by the artwork. There are minor chords struck by Liles’ piano playing, but there is also a flurry of activity that skips about in the music, very noticeable in the closing moments of the first movement and readily apparent at other times in each of the other pieces. This could be contributed to how naked much of Liles’ performance is. While there is no orchestra to make this a concerto proper, the reverb of the title does add a sense of accompaniment. By itself, however, is Liles’ beautiful writing and performance, standing above the simple reverb and feeding off of it simultaneously: eloquent and poetic at times, it conjures a sense of depth and emotional content, and then harsh and invigorating other times with the full range of fear, anger, and confusion instilled in Liles’ heavy handed strikes and melancholic strokes.
Each track brings a different thrill despite the monochromatic possibilities inherent in arranging for a single instrument and effect. Liles makes beautiful use of the piano’s voice, letting it ring out and sing in a way that reminds of Claude Debussy’s work at times. Despite the crushing weight of the water, of depression, of doubt, there is a sense of hope and happiness in the way the instrument is played upon. There can be no doubt of the darkness surrounding this piece, however. So, at other times, Liles exposes the instrument as a rotten beast, coughing and hacking into tunnels so deep and dangerous that man hasn’t dared to touch their mysteries. Liles continues to outdo himself over and over again. I know he’s played with Nurse with Wound, but comparisons between him and Steven Stapleton make as much as sense as comparisons between Salvador Dalí and Georges Bataille do (that is to say that comparison is becoming null and void, the result of a genre’s name moreso than a result of any musical similarity). Liles voice continues to grow more unique and more diverse with time. This album should not be missed.

The Dying Submariner enchantingly submerges the listener in underwater landscapes, that drifting with dead bodies, and lost ships. But also of mystical cities of coral and pearl in the deeperist cannons of the sea, never before seen by human eyes.
Andrew Liles has managed to cokes from his piano and echo effects, such exquisite and often darkly rimed ambient tones. Though out the four tracks he drifts from almost blinding beauty to octopus ink dark tones. Using what may seem such a simple thing as piano to paint such, a level of audio detail, it really is a celebration of the pianos many voices, and of course Mr Liles apt ear for rich sound weaving. Part one finds a man in an copper driving suit twisting over and over falling though, dark choppy seas, is frame just twisting and twisting, we keep glancing his paniced face through, his glass viewing portal, Liles stretch out deep tones from the piano. As the track goes on the tone seem to lighten, or possible it’s just acceptance of the driver to his inevitable death. All of the tracks have similar feeling, but there is variation as Liles experiments with the tones, making each track into its own drifting sound tale.
A rewarding and lush watery sound treat. As usual with Beta-lactam ring records releases, the artwork is wonderfully. A sturdy cardboard gate fold, with a bizarre picture of a deep sea fish on the cover, it’s blind eyes starting out at you, and inside a eerier shot of a driver been swallowed up by darkness. Roger Batty

Dark foreboding ambience that twists knives deep into your cortex with wraith-like disgust, “The Dying Submariner” is a twist conceptual nightmare of slowed down agony. Layering faint sounds onto chilling experimental surreal firestorms, Andrew Liles knows that music filled with this much dread not only tingles spines but chills them with fierce abandon. Psychologically a bit of an undertaking when listened to in complete darkness, the album fills your head with disturbing images as you let your mind wander in the droning collage of sonic textures and elongated sound waves. Beautiful, frightening, eerie, intelligent: all of these adjectives and so much more sum up the truly disheartening experience of listening to this album. And I love it! – J-Sin

Subtitled – A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements – this CD is self-descriptive. Ominous drones, muted and dark open the album, turning in slow turbulence, rumbling with depth – initially minimal in melodic structure, but increasingly harmonious as the piano origins of the sounds gradually become increasingly apparent. The Dying Submariner is not a comfortable composition though, almost as soon as musical clarity is established Liles introduces strongly dissonant notes, disrupting the harmony. At times reverberation is all encompassing, thunderous in places or a thick sonic smog in others. Emergent piano tones run the full range of the keyboard from simple, bold low tolls to tinkling complexity and rippling scales – at times almost free of the ambience of echoes, then once again enshrouded in a blanket of softening sustain.
This appealing package is presented in the fashion of vinyl LPs from a few decades back. A card gatefold opens out to reveal a double panel image of a deep sea diver emerging from green murk – no plastic CD holder to mar the effect. The disc in fact is pocketed in the card sleeve and protected in a plastic wallet. The front cover image of a fish pulled from the ocean depths – dead and eyes and crinkling, transparent skin afloat on an infinity of blackness – hints at the musical tone often explored on the CD. Text is minimal providing little more than contact and label details – a track list appearing only on the disc itself.
Andrew Liles has built up a substantial body of work since the mid 1980s and has collaborated with numerous other artists. Here he presents here a powerful, experimental composition that explores obscure liquid aural bodies of sound and the imaginary contents of such; tenebrous, amorphous, neo-classical, like nothing you’ve ever heard. The Dying Submariner is released on Beta-Lactam Ring Records and will appeal primarily to fans of dark ambient music looking for something different.

Although this is a release without words, I can easily imagine a small story with the music.The first movement starts as a dark soundtrack, as if from the deep (sea), with slow bass sounds (which are stretched piano sounds I guess) penetrating into wider spaces, mixed with its overtones. This sounds still like a composition, which is almost like electronic music but without using electronic keyboards or equipment. In its evolution it starts to give the impression of a ghost piano concerto in a sunken ship, unreachable for real contact, but not for a listener, who might be afraid this could work as sounds from evil elks seeking a new victim to drawn them, to share their doomed destiny. After another clearer (underwater) pianopiece, the third part sound more like drunk and drown, also in the nature of its composition, where the echoing layers and oscillations are a bit destroying the composition ship, showing a more destructive than a constructive nature. After a while it becomes a bit into a sleepy moodiness, keeping the piano piece melodic layers close to the hillocky ground level of the sea. The latest, quietest piano piece with some echoes is just like a calmed down nature of the wreck itself which is no longer making up any new story. Never the less in the end of this piece, a slightly dancing piano melody ends the whole composition, just like friendly moss or plants on top of the wreck.. So in the end the story still did find a surprising concluding turning point which is pleasant like a waving hand, calmly pulsating on the deeper waves and water movements, life after death.

What is the enduring draw in music about sinking ships? Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic, Nurse With Wound’s Salt Marie Celeste, and the Shipwreck Radio series. And now Andrew Liles’ new work The Dying Submariner. Perhaps it’s a fascination with the land mammal’s return to the primordial soup that drowning in a cold unforgiving sea symbolizes. Perhaps it’s a socioeconomic statement about the inevitable demise of the “ship of state.” Or maybe it’s the appropriateness of a burial at sea as a modern compositional twist on that old genre warhorse the funeral mass. Whatever it is, the “sinking ship” genre appears unsinkable.
That being said, The Dying Submariner is hardly a rehash of the existing canon. While it is likely to earn comparisons to the earlier entries mentioned above, there’s a crucial difference here. While Bryars focused on a famous catastrophe affecting hundreds of lives, Liles’ subject is so anonymous he is known only by his occupation. And even though the genre demands slow evolution and repetition of themes, the NWW entries are more eerily creepy than somber. And let’s face it, while it’s also kind of creepy, not much is more somber than contemplating dying alone at the bottom of the ocean. It practically defines somber.
This is deep water music. Even the cover is adorned by the sort of hideously deformed bulging eyeballed, razor fanged fishes that only live at depths where the atmospheric pressure is an order of magnitude greater than that on the surface of the earth. The sounds that comprise The Dying Submariner’s four part concerto will be immediately familiar to anyone who ever put a brick on the sustain pedal of their grandparents’ piano to create enough mobility to go nuts on the leftmost keys. Part I balances between unearthly bass rumblings and reverberant sheets of the fleeting sonic afterimage of a descending melody, the piece flutters steadily downward away from the light of the surface; the audio equivalent of the submarine’s weak headlamp growing dimmer as it plunges further into the abyss. Did I mention this was somber?
Part II offers some brief respite from the inexorable spiral in the form of a slowly coalescing chord sequence that ends up sounding more like the intro to a Mogwai post-rock opus than the grim farewell that preceded it. Maybe this is the point where the submariner is tempted to swim “towards the light”, but if so, the branch of hope that is extended is short-lived because the claustrophobia returns in the tightly wound cascading arpeggios of Part III. Part IV is clearly the point where our hero bites it. Its spare, lingering notes are easily the most funereal of the whole disc.
This is not one of those records I’m going to pull out to listen to again that often. Even the admittedly subtle musical variations on the basic theme Liles presents early on are not likely to make me brave the intensity and frankly depressing prospect of such a death documented over an hour plus. But there are definitely moments of fragile beauty here as well as a compelling (if morbid) narrative and those willing to travel to the depths with Liles and his submariner may find the trip worthwhile.

Subtitled (appropriately) “A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements,” Lile’s “Dying Submariner” is a masterful, absorbing and thoroughly meditative (not to mention emotional on a tenebrous, deep, profound level, if you can imagine that) work. Using the piano to create ultra-moody atmosphere and virtual audio darkness, Lile’s sometimes utilizes instantly recognizable piano strokes that move with intent deliberation, slow but certain. At other times, the music is elongated into ambient miasmas that are not readily identifiable as piano, though in hindsight you can see how the pressure on a piano key was manipulated to such a point. Liles’ work is not just aptly subtitled but aptly titled, as well, providing a dark journey into alien places at the bottom of the world.

Experimental musician/sound artist Andrew Liles has a long history as a collaborator with the likes of Steven Stapleton, The Hafler Trio, and Daniel Padden, but here he conjures a bathyspheric solo work from the elements of piano and reverberation. In fact, the release is subtitled ‘A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Movements’, though I always understood a concerto to have three movements and be for a solo instrument and orchestra of some kind. Pedantry aside, it’s a concerto in spirit, with the core elements of piano forming the solo part, and reverberation the orchestration.
From its outset, it is clear that Liles needs no words to establish narrative: the listener is instantly under the waves, experiencing the deep, muffled wavelengths of sound through water. A world of fear and mystery is evoked, and it’s a dark, cold place that is barely aware of humanity, let alone welcoming of it. Occasional shafts of light penetrate, through differently shaded tone-clusters and subtle arpeggios, but the direction is overwhelmingly toward Neptune’s darkness, and His throne of sodden drones. Liles uses the piano is ways that are rarely heard, and had one not known the genesis of the sounds here, electronics would have been assumed. The end of the first movement is extraordinary, with carillon crescendos suggesting ascent, fighting against the downward pull of deep bass reverberations. At times it’s as if Liles is tearing out piano-strings by the fistful. Despite the potential for such releases to be one-dimensional, Liles creates distinct variations between the movements. The second movement is more clearly piano-generated, solemn chords and hesitant counterpoints suggesting a troubled internal dialogue. In narrative terms, it’s easy to imagine the submariner bargaining for his life as the clock runs down. Halfway through the movement, the tempo and tonality change, and caverns of light are suggested as if a reprieve has been granted, or at least hoped for. It’s a beautiful, weightless sequence that balances the foreboding elsewhere. Delirium perhaps. Lightness and eloquence characterise the start of the third movement; ghost arpeggios echoing along a tunnel of light indicating perhaps that our imagined protagonist has began to cross over into death. But the pitch increases through the movement in an odd and unsettling way, and the overall mood suggested by its middle section is the anxiety of a soul trapped between two states of being, before some kind of resolution takes place in the final third. The fourth movement returns initially to doom-chords and flashes of light of the second movement, almost as though the overall work has transitioned from being about a submariner to being about the sea that swallows all, and especially about the life of its unknowable trenches and rifts. A constantly shifting series of tone clusters and reverberations then follows, across the spectrum of hearing from depth charges of bass to shimmering neutrino particle accelerations of high frequency. Oddly, a stumbling jazz pattern finishes it all off, suggesting maybe a cosmic joke is being played on the listener. It doesn’t quite work as a conclusion, but there is no denying the magnificent work elsewhere. More varied than a pure drone work, but still minimalist in execution, ‘The Dying Submariner’ stands as one of the most fully realised experimental recording of recent years.

Andrew Liles = Gavin Byers + Samuel Coleridge + Harold Budd
What happens when you add Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Iron Maiden but hold the Maiden and insert underwater tableaux’s? What you don’t get is your aquarium screen saver complete with sunken ship and incidental fish noises. Andrew Liles, instead, has created a lurching moaning composition that is equally frightening for its tight chilling style as it is for its sustained notes. The Dying Submariner takes off where Maiden failed (actually making a song about the Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner); it shimmers and shakes, pitches and rolls as one part harmonizes with another and echoes and reverbs off yet another pair or chord of notes. You would think that with each track being 20 minutes (give or take a minute) that it would bring on the boring but instead it is delicately balanced enough to sustain interest the same way that staring at an aquarium is alluring. While Coleridge did The Rime in seven parts Liles was able to do it aurally in four! Boo Ya, Coleridge! – Erik Lopez

Andrew Liles egyike korunk millionyi kiserletezo underground muveszei kozul. Andrew azert nem tegnap kezdte el a billentyuket nyomogatni, hiszen mar a 80-as evekben is adott ki lemezeket, turnezott, stb. Az idok soran – tobbek kozott – olyan neves muveszekkel kollaboralt, mint Edward Ka-Spel (The Legendary Pink Dots), Steve Stapleton (Nurse With Wound), vagy Steven Wilson (Bass Communion, Porcupine Tree). A huzos diszkografiaval rendelkezo Andrew minden anyagan megprobal valami ujat, valami masat alkotni, ezuttal sincs ez maskepp, a Haldoklo Tengeralattjaro egy 4 dalbol allo 72 perces alkotas, a CD alcime pedig – A Concerto for Piano and Reverberation in Four Moments – mar elarulhat egy par dolgot a koncepciorol. Termeszetesen nem egy “live” felvetelrol van szo, viszont a hangszer, amin elovan adva a “koncert”, az mar a zongora. Nem kell persze teadelutanokon eloadott klasszikus szonatakra gondolni, ez itt a feneketlen melysegek es a tengeralattjarok zeneje, egy haldoklo buvar utolso pillanatainak monoton megzenesitese. Andrew zeneje ezen a lemezen kizarolag zongoran eloadott komor hangzatokbol, illetve ezeknek reverberacioibol all. A visszhangositott temak toltik be a hatterszerepet, majd ezekre jatszik ra Andris tovabbi, nem reverberalt zongoratemakat. Az eredmeny egy rendkivul nyomaszto, klausztrofobias hangulatu zenefolyam. A szimplan part I – part IV – re keresztelt dalok egybefolynak, a temak eszrevetlenul csusznak at egymasba, megtartva mindvegig a disszonans, baratsagtalan jelleget. Bar az ambient-el rokon zene ez, megsem neveznem annak, talan az experimentalis kortars zenekhez all kozelebb Mr. Liles produkcioja. Bar ismerek nehany regebbi AL kiadvanyt, engem is meglepett az uj lemez komorsaga, ridegsege, hiszen Andrew-nak vannak ettol sokkal baratsagosabb hangvetelu anyagai is. Ha esetleg bejonne a The Dying Submariner, akkor probalkozz meg a specialis 2 CD-s verzioval is, amely tartalmaz egy The Dead Submariner nevu korongot is. – Robert Sun

Andrew Liles pumps out CDs by the dozen and it’s just obvious that I am not able to keep his pace, that’s why I listened to “The dying submariner” – subtitled “A concerto for piano and reverberation” – with a lot of delay (no pun intended). It’s one of those cases in which I bought the CD out of the many positive reviews I read, and let it be known that they were right. The composition is divided into four movements, more or less similar as a general concept but slightly different as far as little nuances and colours are concerned. The activity is mostly centred around the low-frequency range of the piano at first, then the nebulous figurations and long-distance echoes elicited by Liles’ hands shift all over the keyboard in grey-tinged snapshots of solitude, at times sounding more like a silent movie soundtrack than a marine landscape. The sea is nevertheless evoked, thanks to hundreds of overlapping chords which – in the haze generated by the infinite reverbs – mesh and gently clash, giving birth to even more extraneous shades, all of them perfectly acceptable to these ears, which every once in a while need a little relief after hours upon hours of relentless attacks (and not always by good musicians). Only at the end of the album the piano morphs into a metallic entity, then Liles closes the show with uncertain muffled articulations that look like a signature of sorts. Another considerable effort by this talented artist. – Massimo Ricci