srijeda, 3. listopada 2012.

En - Already Gone

Maxwell August Croy i James Devane istražuju kako oblacima uhvatiti Zemlju za uši (Kamčatku i Norvešku), podignuti je uvis poput djeteta, neko je vrijeme bacakati okolo po lusteru i krevetu a onda je naglo ispustiti tako da Kina razbije nos na ledenom podu Mliječne staze.

streaming ovdje

Already Gone is the ideal soundtrack to being shot into space, at least once the fiery, smoke-filled blast-off has taken place. Its contents free-float like galactic debris, the only grounding feature being the Campfire Songs strums of “The Sea Saw Swell” and the glittery harp sprinkles of “Elysia,” the latter much more stuttered and echo-drenched, as well as the soft onward thrust of En’s drone coordinates, which imbue the arrangements with a feel of endless, eternal drift.
Then again, maybe the mood of En is more akin to viewing a huge, gushing dam from above, the cool mist of liquid effects spraying the face every so often and leaving a thin sheen on the skin. All that’s missing is the roaring of the H2O; you simply won’t find any barbaric forces of nature within Already Gone; that is, unless you crank it up so loud the speakers shake in spite of themselves.
In a nutshell, that’s what this recording is about. Hints of minimalism abound, but you won’t find the compositions couched in the long, pregnant pauses that render many examples of the artform so spare there’s nowhere to hang one’s ear. Already Gone is a constant companion that leaves little to the imagination and even less to the brittle fallback that is filler, as each moment and transition is carefully conceived and midwife’d by a thoughtful knack for the tricky art of creating long stretches of sound that keep the listener in mind.
As useful a resource cassette tapes have turned out to be for ethereal mind music, I find vinyl to be a much better conduit for the more delicate spiritual journeys out there, and Already Gone is no exception. I might be (high-)biased, as my tape player is a sputtering ass-mess right now, but the sounds of En deserve to be heard at high fidelity, even after you’ve spun its contents to the sun and back. - Gumshoe

Drones, the line goes, are easy. You don’t have to worry much about structure. Beginnings and endings are arbitrary. Tempo isn’t a concern. You just hold a note, go with it and everything flows. It’s a neat (and, yes, easy) way for record store clerks (or whatever you call those guys that write up verbose descriptions for online shops) to slot a release into familiar territory. It’s also a way for critics to browbeat albums that simplify their musical materials to, say, a few held notes, a particularly resonant chord or continuously bowed strings.
The problem with this simplifying moniker is that much of the music we apply the word drone to isn’t anything of the sort. A drone is a very defined form: a single tone held for the duration of a piece. What we call drone music is really more a reduction of musical elements and the extension of what remains after that. It’s music that’s about drilling down into musical material to find just that which is essential — a texture, a series of overtones, a tangy dissonance, a clear theme, moments of enveloping atmosphere — and reconstructing them into a rich, satisfying whole. It’s a lot of things, but a one-note show it is not.
A group like En, the duo of Maxwell Croy (who runs the Root Strata label) and James Devane, is the sort of group that gets quickly grouped under the drone umbrella. With koto, a Rhodes piano, guitar, melodica and some hefty processing, they make massively detailed walls of textured sound that emerge and recede amorphously. They deal in held tones, usually two or three soft, organ-like swells that seethe and shift in the background. Their pieces move slowly and change is subtle. They might use drones as part of their vocabulary, but the five pieces on their second album, Already Gone, are far from being drones.
“Lodi” and “The Sea Saw Swell” feature bass lines that tether the short, effervescent themes and swirling counterpoint. The title track plays like a cloudier, more synthetic reading of Joe Zainwul’s “In a Silent Way.” (Seriously, much of Already Gone seems to extend on the melodic unspooling that Miles Davis and group laid down in the first four minutes of that seminal 1969 jam.) And if you’re still thinking that Croy and Devane are making simple music, check the 20-minute “Elysia.” It cycles through four or five parts — blissful chant-like figures on bowed strings, tape-saturated crackle, a dense chorus of rippling strings from the koto — all over a bed of held, tumescent tones. Those held tones do act as drone figures, but how we hear them shifts as what is played around them changes. It’s like a musical version of Josef Albers’ theory of color interaction.
So, no, drone music like En’s is not easy. Sure, it tries to sound easy, but that’s the point. Every time I hear the descending 12-note figure that opens “Elysia,” I feel my blood pressure drop. “Elysia” makes you realize that sounding easy is hard. This word drone just won’t do anymore: we need a new way of talking about music like this. Whatever that way is, I don’t know. But Already Gone is a good place to start looking. - Matthew Wuethrich

 The ‘West Coast’ sound is notoriously difficult to categorise. From The Beach Boys playful liturgies to teenage summer, to the elusive beauty of Fennesz’ West Coast influenced ‘Endless Summer’, which entwined the same languid guitar lines around swathes of digital processing. For me, the common features are the weightlessness that permeates the music, the aqueous shimmers of harmony and the inextricable link with the surrounding environment. In constant discourse with the sea, West Coast music literally evokes the rolling waves and draws on the imaginary landscape of grainy, sun-drenched and distant memories.
Self-proclaimed ‘dream drone’ unit En’s new album ‘Already Gone’ embodies these good vibrations in a sublime marriage of the organic and the obscure. Field recordings sit low in the mix, reinforcing the feeling of unplaceable nostalgia, whilst Koto, Guitar, Rhodes, Piano and bass parts apparate and then dissipate back underneath the veil of the slowly evolving drones. These tactile transients give tangible expression to the elusive emotions provoked by the drones, giving the record a truly personal narrative that is both edifying and life affirming.
It is not surprising that the duo’s compositions are so affecting, Croy, one half of the duo, co-runs the Root Strata label which has released Keith Fullerton Whitman’s seminal ‘Generator’ amongst others. However, the sheer level of transient detail contained within the record is remarkable. That noticeable transients are an under used tool in ambient composition is perhaps understandable, even a slight misuse threatens the trance like state that is the desired effect of many composers. However, when used well, transient detail counter intuitively strengthens this effect. In ‘Already Gone’ the transients become ambiguous metaphors for emotion, giving the record a wonderful, overarching tactility.
There is also a sublime attention to melody on display; harmonies are presented in pure, temporal drifts that circle each other in gentle orbits. By pulling back the curtain on the source of these sounds, ‘Already Gone’ evokes the collective memory of the instruments that created them, mining the emotional resonances of the West Coast aesthetic and further augmenting the escape into reminiscence. Organic and alive, each track is like a nomadic outburst of joy; they pulsate with the haze of summer recollections past and yet to come.
‘Already Gone’ is a beautiful, light, playful and evocative work from this intriguing duo, which unfolds with the tempo of a profound, contemplative walk through layers of memory. It feels outside of time, providing a personal palimpsest to be overwritten and recompiled with each listen. - Ed Hamliton

En - The Absent Coast image
En, The Absent Coast (2010)

 Honeysuckle Heart
 Polaris (The Celestial Arc)

Another sublime drone album from the unshakably good Root Strata camp, En's The Absent Coast is a real upper tier ambient release. Distinguished by its depth and effortless musicality, this album is one for genre fans to really savour. After the sandblasting noise/tonal onslaught of 'A Dying Sun/Return To Holyoke', the album calibrates itself to a stately simmer that comes to life during the quite sublime 'Honeysuckle Heart', which combines glassy sustains with crackling, overdriven harp-like string plucks to exquisite effect. Elsewhere, 'Miramar' conjures a horizontal bowed soundscape that's somehow more visceral and emotive than the sum of its parts and the ionosphere-scraping 'Pratyaya' paradoxically combines Tim Hecker-style fiery arcs with the kind of effortless, droning sedation that Stars Of The Lid specialise in. Excellent. - boomkat

En is the duo of San Francisco based multi-instrumentalists Maxwell August Croy and James Devane, and “The Absent Coast” is their debut collection of recordings…
The instrumentation used on the outing is diverse – koto, guitar, vocals, Rhodes, melodica, piano. Clearly the instruments are processed, but without stripping the original analogue or organic texture from the tones. Listening to the drones on the record, it’s hard to dismiss them into the background or forget them as part of the furniture – you can visualise hands tracing chord shapes or fingers on keys; a tactility engages.
The format is well established, but there are occasional flourishes that surprise and distinguish – the feedback in the first track ‘A Dying Sun/Return to Holyoke’ is an eyebrow raiser in a good way. The tropes here are not groundbreaking, but it is reassuring to see them deployed in such a confident manner early on. In that regard, a great opening number.
Some of the background texture in the second track ‘Mother Of Thousands’ is a touch more demanding, but the blare of the organ counterbalances it nicely.
Title track ‘The Absent Coast’ is a good third track breather, and brings to mind a picture I got a lot of the way through the record – it’s “glassy”. Easy to imagine a lot of bright light refracted through, or reflected off, stained or clear glass. A very visible spectrum of colour.
I was not at all surprised to see Boomkat had also dropped the “glass” reference in their review for the record too, which highlighted ‘Honeysuckle Heart’ as an album strong point. That it is, but also brief at a shade over two minutes.
Honeysuckle Heart
‘Miramar’ is a more respectable length, and is a perfect example of what’s right with this record. Really interesting tones juxtaposed with conventional layering and a strong melodic and emotional base.
‘Polaris (The Celestial Arc)’ is considerably more subdued, with a focus on bottom end hum that becomes an off kilter melody. ‘Ghosts’ is a low-key bridging piece that ties the two tracks that border it well.
‘Biezumd’ stirs curiosity – how DID they get that sound, and how is it looping in such a way? An intelligent soundscape that becomes a distant pulsing melody.
‘Maboroshi’ has a very coastal tinge, with distant key parts invoking the nostalgia that the press release harkens to.
‘Pratyaya’ is the most notable use of vocals on the record, and is a shimmering, pitched up Gregorian chant – floating on mercury. A fitting close.
Very high quality stuff, as you’d expect from a Root Strata release, and fits solidly into the catalogue that they are renowned for. The release appears to be available now, in a run of 300 LP’s.
Alex Gibson

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