Piano. Bowed metal. Percussion. Repetition. Space. Texture…
These are our basic ingredients; our oil, salt, pepper, spice, flour, water. We can draw on one tradition, or another – personal, geographic, familial. Our tools, our skillets, griddles, pans; these are our experience, our context, and our time. Whatever the combination, we try to make something.
Trying to work out what that is, why that record is good, why this one is a disappointment, why this one we will play again and again, depends on so much, can be such a personal decision, that in the end, the best thing to do is listen as much as possible – to the actual music, the disc in your hand, the ringing in your ears.
Floor tom. Banjo. Guitar. Detail. Depth. Quiet.
There is so much music out there. So much being made from these simple elements – what separates the merely pleasant from the stunning? The wallpaper from the focus point? This album, the first as Gilded from Matt Rösner and Adam Trainer is beautifully produced, mixed, balanced, mastered – one of the best I’ve heard this year – every detail shines through clearly. But this isn’t the reason I’ll return to it again and again. It cleverly juxtaposes the abstract curl of noise and bowed scrapes against stately piano chords, but this in itself is not wholly remarkable.
It is the clear eyed way these elements are put to work – to the service of restraint, understatement, yes, but quiet drama too – a narrative drive, a forward momentum – this is not ambient music in the Eno ‘tinting’ sense – its far too involving, far too surprising.
The unexpected entrance of hushed vocals in Expand/Contract gives the whole album shape. An arc where the gradual accumulation of texture moves from the opening tumbling piano figures to the frayed accordion drones of Moth Food, providing a suitably ear-cleaning coda, yet Terrane never goes for the easy crescendo, the mass of stacked instruments. Instead, new arrivals form part of a holding pattern of repeated gestures, the picked banjo of String and Stone simply mirroring the low cymbal and high percussive bell, dancing round a two note bass centre.
Ringing. Echoing. Noise.
The grasp of holding dynamics on display here is I think, almost unparalleled in this area – the close notes and rattles of Dew Cloud at times recall Adrian Klumpes’ excellent Be Still record, but here they are anchored to a hidden, implied rhythmic grid that ties much of these passages to process and systems based art, rather than expressionist washes.
Brevity. Rhythm. Listening.
There are worlds in here, in this record. Microscopic examinations of simple figures and patterns, that could fill whole sides; a focus and determination that wraps everything up in 45 minutes. Beautiful, simple, deep, Terrane is simply one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. Highly recommended!