Echoes June CD of the Month: Limina Coming Home

Limina's Symphonic Electronic Journey: Echoes June CD of the Month

By John Diliberto 5/30/24

Photo of Tyler Durham, AKA LiminaWhen I came to electronic music in the 1970s, I was very much under the influence of French-American composer Edgard Varèse. Besides composing great works like Déserts and Poème Electrified, he also wrote the manifesto, The Liberation of Sound. Writing in 1936, he wanted to be freed from the orchestra and predicted the electronic instruments we have today. But now that we have those instruments, and composers are “freed” from the orchestra, they want it back. And they don’t want to give up the electronics that have liberated them either. Tyler Durham is one of those composers. He records as Limina.

You might have seen Tyler Durham’s name in the small credits for films. He’s worked with composers like James Newton Howard doing additional music on TV shows including Outer Banks and films such as Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. But recording as Limina, he’s creating his own sound.

Coming Home is an enveloping tone poem that is full of luxurious orchestrations, driving machine rhythms and electronic accents.  Durham conceived it as a story, as someone journeys back home after a time of estrangement. Like Steve Reich’s Different Trains, he uses location recordings, from train stations to trains rolling down the tracks. Sometimes those sounds are background mood setters, sometimes they are intermeshed with the music.

Limina - Coming HomeDurham is very much inspired by Sigur Rós. You can hear it in his string arrangements as well as his wordless singing on the title track, which reflects the vocalizing of Sigur Ros singer, Jónsi. It’s a high-pitched keening and you can especially hear the similarity to that bands most recent album, Átta. But Limina is much less oppressive and more generous in its uplifting moments.

In one track, “Dissolved” he takes you through a range of emotions, from poignant, to assertive, to triumphant. Piano motifs are followed by the same melody echoed in electronics. Strings surge, driven by slightly glitchy, slightly hip-hop grooves.  This is a dynamic that repeats throughout the album.

But other tracks are more reflective like “Mirrors” which begins as a wistful melody of piano and cello that emerges out of the sound of a train on tracks. More strings come in with contrapuntal lines. The piano is joined in echo by crystalline synthesizers reflecting the melody, then dissolves into the trains again, as if it was a landscape you just passed by.

Durham, like most modern composers, created his work using sampled strings, but then had them played by orchestral performers. Those performances in turn are often processed electronically.

“Let It Take You” is a music of resolution where he uses those train track sounds much more overtly, centering his electronic rhythm around them as strings surge in a mood of fierce resolve.

“Whispers” is a dream journey with muted, reverb-drenched piano emerging into a fantasy land, with strings sounding like a train, hitting the brakes as they pull into a train station. Strings and electronics build to a crescendo then drop suddenly, only to be thrust into “Beginnings.” That track starts with the sound of children in a playground before banjo-mimicking strings launch into a minimalist hoedown in sync with the sound of a train clattering on the tracks. A reverse electronic stutter morphs it into one of the most percussive tracks on the album, as the strings make Coplandesque promises of joy, before they dissolve back into the sounds of children in a playground.

“Sanctum” lives up to its spiritual name, suggesting a place of refuge and reflection. A choir gently soars beneath the strings and horns before an organ fugue takes over, bathing you in the light of the divine. But just when you think it’s all calm and reflection, the strings surge like an oncoming storm. The organ theme is now transformed into synthesizer bells, as the track slowly dissolves into a fairy dust of reverse strings.

Each track on Coming Home is a journey. Like the train metaphor the album uses, none of them stay in one place for long and are constantly propelling you forward into the future. “Return” and “Where I am” conclude the trek on celebratory and reflective notes respectively.

As Limina, Tyler Durham has made a major statement. His music sits right in that field that not only includes Sigur Ros, but Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Nils Frahm and Ludovico Einaudi. His use of acoustic symphonic strings puts him leagues ahead of those just relying on samples, no matter how good those have gotten. The fact that they are truly acoustic, makes his processing and electronics sound even more emotionally girded. Coming Home is not only a story, but a tale in which the circle from electronic to acoustic has completed, with both forever intertwined, wires and strings wrapped in synergistic bliss.

Hear our interview with Limina’s Tyler Durham in Echoes Podcast.

The End.

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