In the hands of a mid- or late-career post rock group, the title Eighteen Minutes would refer to the radio edit of a single cut. But tides are shifting back toward nuance, favoring lowercase compositions, tones, brief snapshots. Straight-line narratives are as valuable as deep repetition. Four is the new 24. So in the case of Guy Gelem’s latest EP on mini50 records, Eighteen Minutes is literal, the running time across all four tracks.
Gelem is an Israeli cellist who lives in the Czech Republic. Read that previous sentence aloud: his credentials don’t exactly roll from the tongue. But starting today, those three terms will long be cemented together. Companion opening tracks “Upper” and “The Last” create a pervasive, humming central melody with plucked strings that register as matte in timbre, wooden in color. It seems “Upper” is the smart twin, while “The Last” is the passionate one: the former is driven by electronic fingertip percussion, barely rising to the level of click track. The bowed portions here are sparse, iconic and vocal. (This is Euan McMeeken’s second consecutive mini50 release — the first being his own piano-based Tohu va Vohu soundtrack — in which a sole, stark instrument performs an aria.) “The Last” is more charitable with its horsehair and reveals Gelem’s interest in bringing Bach into the world of DAW and subtle processing.
“Search, Find, Keep” begins with murmuring strings, echoes of guitar fret noise, and the muzzled crush of feedback kept quiet with a steady hand. The rumbling of effects never subsides or shifts much, even as Gelem’s adagio cello sings hauntingly. It is a deft technical move, as if we are hearing the reverberations of another song entirely. Hauntingly, indeed. Closing track “The Seventh” is the most modern of the four movements, what with its prolonged and echoed parallel lines, and aching minor chord urges.
By its own definition, it is short. But much more than that, Eighteen Minutes is a pensive and intelligent composition. So if you’re left wanting more, listen to it again. Stream and purchase at mini50 records. Learn more about Gelem at his Myspace page. Available in digital format. Mastered by Matthew Collings. Artwork by Jamie Mills.