Rosali Middleman on Galbraith / Neilson / Youngs ‎– Belsayer Time


One of my top favorites of last year was the excellent new album from Rosali Middleman. It could easily have been a toss-up between No Medium and the more scathing glory of her Monocot album with Jayson Gerycz, but however you look at it, Rosali had an incredible year. She’s been rather busy since (understandably,) but I finally found a time when Rosali could contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series and its a lovely entry. Rosali digs back into the Time-Lag catalog for this one. Check out how this collaborative LP came into her life and the impact it has had.

“Recently I’ve been having aural hallucinations as I fall asleep, notes Rosali. “It’s hard to describe the experience – something like flooding waves of omnidirectional cascading harmonics that are at times intensely overloaded with layers of tones before fading out like a whisper. In waking, I try to recall what I’m hearing, in hopes to recreate it, but the music evaporates the moment I fixate on it. Belsayer Time, the incredibly magnificent collaboration from underground heavy-hitters Alastair Galbraith, Alex Neilson, and Richard Youngs, while not sounding like it (impossible), does leave me with a similar feeling of my lucid dream songs. 

“The first time I heard this album was shortly after its release in 2006. I’d just moved to Philly and lived in what is known as a trinity – a tiny three- story row home that is basically three small rooms stacked on top of one another. The house had the smallest spiral staircase, and you couldn’t move furniture beyond the first floor unless you hoisted it through the windows. So we made do, and on the third floor had a nice rug, some floor cushions (dog beds, tbh), and the record player. My friends and I would smoke out the window and listen to records for hours in the sunniest part of the house.” 

“I was drawn to the cover art and packaging of Belsayer Time. Three circles hover in a triangulated position, each one a symbol, a sigil that I take to represent the players. The image of the snowflake also caught my eye – I’d been living in Vermont prior to Philly and had gotten into Snowflake Bentley, a Vermont farmer (as I had been), who first captured images of snowflakes’ structures using photomicrography in the early 1900s – and it’s one of Bentley’s snowflakes that appears on the Belsayer Time cover. Perhaps there is something to the connection or my recognition of the art, and we all know what snowflakes (or snow crystals, as Bentley called them) symbolize, and how individual distinctiveness informs these players’ collaboration.” 

“To be fair, some of my favorite shit is from free improvisational collaboration, but something about this one feels ancient and constructed beyond chance operations. The album is a beautifully intuitive dance – that hit the sweet spot I was at that time chasing in my own practice – one of  allowing songs to arise out of chaos and noise, only to drop out into more abstraction. Belsayer Time opens with a beckoning drone that morphs into a strange hymnal with clattering free percussion. The first side is cinematic and otherworldly, but also familiar: an inner prismatic song. The last track on side A (also my favorite) features layers of Richard Youngs’ alluring voice rising above drones, spotted percussion, and backwards loops.” 

“The whole thing is a churning, chanting, cyclical drone energy field that becomes more abstract and noisy as the album progresses. Side B comes in with a heavier squall of dark drones, loose yet driving drumming, and squirrelly horn-like sounds. The second track fractalizes and dissipates into the ether with staticky, oscillating tones and harmonics, sitting somewhere in the sci-fi new age sound-bath territory. And just as you’ve slipped into a trance, the trio jars you back to reality for the last few moments of the record.” 

“I return to Belsayer Time when I need to deep-dive into a fresh mental space, to prime my brain for a new undertaking. And maybe part of its spell is that it takes me back to that time when I was young, in love with the new life I was making in Philly, dedicating myself to music-making and feeling so much possibility ahead of me. Then and now, the album soundtracks the passage in my memory.”

This one unearths a hole in my Time-Lag offerings, and I’m glad to dive in since it is not in my own collection, but those names above the banner would warant looking into the LP regardless and Rosali’s endorsement only seals the deal. This one, as with most Time-Lag of the era, is out of print. Yet, the Discogs gods smile on us all, as it seems that you can still find some copies of this one out in the wild. I’d recommend nabbing one sooner than later, though. While you’re at it, head to Spinster to pick up a copy of Rosali’s latest.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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