July 24, 2009

Greg Davis - Mutually Arising (2009, Kranky)

Greg Davis has been releasing electronic music and running the Autumn Records label since '01, featuring IDM-tinged compositions by some well-known artists including Kranky-alumnus Keith Whitman. Davis has released CDs and records on an array of notable labels including RKK, Carpark, and Lux Nigra, as well as his excellent first CD for Kranky in '04, entitled "Somnia". His earlier material has a strong laptop drone sound, making use of organic field recordings processed with granular synthesis fx, creating a constant sense of movement and evolving tones, occasionally giving way to unprocessed recordings of guitar or found sounds. In contrast, "Mutually Arising" has a very minimalist sound, and according to the liner notes, the sound source consists of a pair of classic analog synthesizers, the Korg Mono/Poly and the Crumar Stratus, processed through "various pedals" and finally, computer. The album consists of two extended pieces, each well over 20 minutes in length. In the first piece in particular, "Cosmic Mudra," there is much less of a feeling of movement, instead the experience is similar to an immense wall of sound (depending, of course, on how loud you like to listen to this sort of music), slowly shifting textures over such lengthy periods of time that the transitions are almost imperceptibly subtle, until you realize you have been enveloped in a new sound. The effect is somewhat penetrating and intense, but with a transcendental, meditative quality, as though depicting the ascension of consciousness through various bardos or astral planes, with an effect that reminded me strongly of the Kawabata Makoto/AMT sound that I love. I especially enjoyed the second piece, "Hall Of Pure Bliss", which has a more emotive, somewhat-melodic texture. Constantly shifting filters keep the sound in a perpetual state of motion, shifting around the stereo field, with a very soothing effect to help calm back down after the intensity of the first piece. Whereas "Cosmic Mudra" climaxes in higher-and-higher frequencies, "Pure Bliss" slowly fades into the depths. "Mutually Arising" demands patient, focused deep listening, which I enjoyed as a meditative practice and is also something I aim for in my own music, and I can imagine that live performances of these pieces would be very effective.