Daniel O’Sullivan – The Physic Garden

Daniel O'Sullivan – The Physic Garden Anxious Magazine

Third in a trilogy of LPs of Library Music miniatures from composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (Æthenor, Ulver, This is Not This Heat, etc) following 2020’s Electric Māyā and 2021’s Fourth Density. For heads, the term “Library Music” in 2021 might evoke dodgy Italian gray market LPs and crate diggers hunting for “funky breaks” – but London’s venerable KPM Music is working with groundbreakers like Daniel to open up new avenues for composers to experiment. The 15 tracks on “The Physic Garden” are fully-formed and orchestrated compositions, which would be highlights on anyone’s LP, never mind as incidental music. Of the music, Dan says: “The Physic Garden is an album of diverse instrumentals inspired by a swathe of verdant vistas from manicured gardens and follies to urban common land, overgrown and forgotten. Convalescent memories in the shape of psychedelic auditory botanics.”

Key tracks include the droning acoustic folk of the title song; the Canterbury-esque rolling horn and woodwind melody of “Return the Heart” (with expert drum kit from Frank Byng); The prog-ish odd meter interlude “Buttercup Tea”; The quiet ambience and delicate melody of “Dusty Feather:”; and the Eno-like drift of “Vapourer Larvae.”

“Library music. Akasha. Here you accept that music behaves like a thing to accentuate another thing, seemingly unrelated. A beautiful, shining blankness. Not passive. An opportunity to wade. A brief encounter with an open-ended destiny. As in, you never know who or what it will be partnered with. With library music the emphasis tends to be on functionality and less on sonic self-portraiture. So it compels you to be concise, like what is the function of this work? The distance is liberating. It’s less “What Am I? and more “What Is This?”. It compels you to be brief, each little cell is a world of its own in an assemblage of miniatures all vibrating in their collective identity. Then there is the occult nature of library music which is fetishized by many for its ability to induce time travel, often to send us back to some televisual memory. However, despite its broad-brush strokes, the library can be so profoundly alien, especially when experienced independently of the televisual realm; an unruly chimera of genre mutations, compositional curiosities and the deepest wallpaper you ever laid ears on. Perhaps the observances of library music can help unshackle us from our artistic insecurities and delusions, where one is drawn to the shape of music as a whole instrument unto itself; as a vehicle carrying our intention and consisting of everything we have to give at that moment; so things that are seemingly unrelated are ultimately connected.” – Daniel O’Sullivan 


released April 28, 2023

All music composed and assembled by Daniel O’Sullivan at Dream Lion Studios, London for the KPM Music Library in the year 2018 using voice, piano, viola, guitars, autoharp, drums, percussion, synthesizers, tape machines, clarinet, bamboo flute, recorder, and harmonium.

Alex Ward plays clarinet and saxophone on Return the Heart, Buttercup Tea, and Axial Flame
Frank Byng plays drums on Return the Heart, Buttercup Tea, and Axial Flame

Vinyl edition by VHF Recordings
Mastering by Noel Summerville
Front Collage by Daniel O’Sullivan
Design and Layout by Mark Titchner

Thanks and praise to Paul Sandell, Bill Kellum, Kerry O’Sullivan, Frank Byng and Mark Titchner