There seems to have been a recent flurry of new creative partnerships between established solo artists working in the generous borderlands between neo-classical, electronic, and ambient music. In fairly quick succession we’ve been treated to lovely debuts from A Winged Victory for the Sullen (Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran) and Oliveray (Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick), with the first Orcas release (Benoît Pioulard and Rafael Anton Irisarri) on the horizon. Now add to that list Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist (who has most commonly recorded as Jasper TX). Their debut album as From the Mouth of the Sun is to be released at the end of January on Experimedia, and is recommended listening.
In an interview for Fluid Radio, Rosenquist has described Woven Tide as “the perfect combination of the two of us: lush orchestrated parts, some noisier parts paired with drones and lots of acoustical instruments like cello, pump organ, banjo and piano.” That brief description sums up the album’s sound world pretty well – it sits in the growing creative space that has opened up at the intersection of experimental sound manipulation and classical piano and strings, but with the lyrical moments embedded in a forest of textured noise.
The opening track, titled ‘The Crossing’, is a brief fragment, just over a minute of sonic scene setting, yet it somehow seems important. The more times I listen to the album, the more these opening moments seem to offer a clue as to how to approach the rest. Guitar notes, a small echoing buzz, a hiss of static, resonant drones, strings – each of these enters, a new layer each few moments, and they seem to walk alongside and around each other without locking into a fixed configuration, layering into a complex aural environment but not merging. Soon the strings tentatively find harmony and swell a little – but just as it feels as if the track might take wing into something stirring and expansive, the momentum ceases and the sounds fade back to silence. The effect is rather like listening to an orchestra tuning before the concert begins – a purposeful yet non-linear climb to a brief swell of harmony, then, just when it feels as if we might be underway, the instruments fall silent.
Imagine an orchestra made up, yes, of cellos, a piano, a pump organ, a banjo, but also drones, the crackle of a vinyl run-out groove, hints of chant and of choral voices, fuzzy distortion, noise, chimes, wind-like sounds, creaking, cymbals. Now imagine this orchestra patiently, tenderly, skillfully exploring a path along which these various sounds neither mill around in chaotic dissonance nor fuse into a single glowing harmony, but rather tug evocatively at each other, flow around each other, layer above and below one another. Together they create an ever-active whole in which moments of yearning melody are patiently won from the crackling conversation without canceling it out. Imagine also a certain reticence, so that when strings or keys soar into sweetness or melancholy, the arc does not continue and blossom into full romantic technicolor, but withdraws again into the reflective interplay of melody and noise. Finally, imagine that all of this actually turns out far more accessible than it might sound – not a morass of esoteric experimentation, but a tuneful, touching musical journey that fans of, say, Stars of the Lid or Ólafur Arnalds might enjoy. ‘The Crossing’, brief as it is, points down this path, tunes us in, and the remaining tracks, while quite varied in sound as different instruments and motifs come to the fore, carry forward the same consistent aesthetic. The result is that although it would be easy to point to standout moments (listen, for instance, to Color Loss below, and wait for its resonant concluding section), the whole feels more like a single larger composition than a collection of tracks.
If allowed to fall into the background, the album easily slips by – I suggest that this is really an album for attentive, focused listening. The reticence that steers each piece away from flights of grandeur is also what allows the various sounds to coexist and lets each play its distinctive part without being absorbed into the whole. The album really came alive for me when I began to listen more closely to this interplay of multiple threads weaving around one another and to focus on the different textures in relationship to one another. There is often an exquisite sense of timing as one layer is hushed and another comes to the fore, creating a subtle drama from understated shifts of momentum. Pay attention, and there is a remarkably rich sound world here to explore, with many a moment of pensive beauty.
Pieces from the album are accompanying a documentary film project titled Remember Me, My Ghost, and it is easy to imagine this as an evocative film score. It also stands firmly on its own feet, however, as a rewarding piece of music. It is worth noting that Experimedia is offering a variety of remarkably well priced bundles ranging from the CD, vinyl LP, download and poster all together for $18 to the CD and download for $10. (You can also download a free remix of one track here). Whatever format works for you, be sure to give this one a listen.
David Smith currently lives in the Midwestern United States, where he teaches, writes, and enjoys a very wide range of music, with regard to which he claims no expertise whatsoever beyond that of a dedicated and appreciative listener.
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