Halfway through Nicholas Szczepanik’s Not Knowing things take a turn for the dark. It required a full 25 minutes to unfold them, but it takes only a few short moments for Szczepanik to stab his gilded melodies and let them die. First the strings lose their luster, then they grow still and cold, and finally they sink into icy cold waters. Afterward, all that remains of their swaying, sentimental song is a muffled harmonic echo and the barest suggestion that something warm still persists below the surface. But the music sweeps us along, and the symphony finally fades into a wavy blur of shivering tones. The transition is forlorn and paradoxically comforting, like recalling a happy memory and realizing you’re unlikely to experience anything like it ever again.
Not Knowing first saw the light of day in 2011, when it served as the inaugural disc in Szczepanik’s Ante Algo Azul subscription series. It was a brief 18-minute piece on a 3-inch CD-R, extremely limited, housed in a handmade sleeve and sealed with a dedication to Eliane Radigue, whose work served as an inspiration for the music. You can hear her at points throughout the album: in the patient introduction, in the pulsing analog tones, and in the directness of the elements employed. Her influence is clear, but Szczepanik does a lot more than imitate her work.