Monday, September 10, 2012
asentimentalsong / Guilty Ghosts split on Harding St. Assembly Labs
I’ve been listening to another 10” in The Harding St. Assembly Labs series, documenting the best underground music in Lynchburg, Virginia. This ambitious 10” vinyl series of ambient, atmospheric artists has been incredible, including this release from asentimentalsong and Guilty Ghosts. Two sides with a similar approach to sound but entirely individual takes on the swing of emotion that can be made with contemporary instrumental guitar based music.
Joe Morgan is the solo artist behind the A-Side track from his project, asentimentalsong. You might know him already from his project with friend and long time collaborator Nathan McGothlin with The Late Virginia Summers who also are featured on a side of another record in this series. There’s a lot of similarities in the shoegaze layered dynamics of TLVS but in his solo effort it sounds like Joe is taking those ideas even further into really epic reaches of what is possible with heavy manipulation of amplified strings under a wash of effects.
“A Midsummer Night’s Gleam” is Joe's sprawling fifteen minute track that, thanks to being on this longer format than we’re used to, takes it’s time building incredible highs and lows out of little more than a guitar and an array of chained together blinking boxes. It’s the kind of sound that sneaks up on you, like the slowly degrading tapes of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops. It seems like there aren’t any clearly audible changes, somehow you end up in a completely different place than where you started and it's a mystery everytime.
A shimmering, distant guitar slowly repeats over swelling low end rumblings. It’s an incredibly restrained piece considering the energy that is trapped here, never allowed to rise much beyond this distant space just over the horizon. It’s reminding me of Stars of the Lid or even Music for Airports; an epic piece of the landscape, not just a tiny square polaroid snapshot. There’s such a sense of space, at times leaving the earth completely. Possibly he’s attacking and clawing at this guitar but under the layers of effects and delay it’s massively strangled, barely coming up for air and somehow still coming off as feeling completely free. This single phrase could have started long before they hit record and this is merely the long sad decay of a sound captured on that crumbling magnetic tape. That’s just when a distant acoustic strumming fades in out of the rumbling tones, the aftershocks of that big bang. It’s so expansive you literally have trouble with the persistence of memory, a melody can only exist if your brain can still remember that last note. asentimentalsong seems to be testing those limits in an exercise of subtle shifts in tone and again that’s the great thing about being on the vinyl format, the interaction it takes to physically start the piece and actively listen to the spiral move ever closer towards the center of the disc. It’s easy to get carried away philosophically when listening to this emptiness. The strings slowly begin peaking out, as if the guitar is bowed but at the same time the actual devices used in this performance are so completely foreign and otherworldly sounding, it's impossible to imagine. Incredibly long, it’s doing something the best seven inch singles can do...give you just enough to leave you wanting more, ending as far from the opening tones as possible. The last section of the piece hints at a peek of chaos, piecing itself together into an immense wall of sound with a thick, rumbling foundation under overdriven brittle highs that can’t possibly sustain as long as they do, but how you always end up here is a never-ending mystery.
Tristan O’Donnell on the other side is from Brooklyn and his solo effort Guilty Ghosts is working in slightly shorter form throughout his three tracks but climbing to epic heights in a massive sonic landcape.
“Stampede” begins with tapping notes rising in, the slight striking of guitar strings with a wooden stick or delayed piano strikes...but that's me trying to uselessly dissect the thing. A deeper register rattling bass note hits with a big time delay guitar and a literal lightning strike loud as hell, it scares me everytime. A rhythm starts to appear, with higher tone guitar and the loop pedals are on everdrive. Another lightning strike and I’m looking out the window for heat lightning. Reminding me of a quieter, rolling Locrian "Lowe" starts to fade into the sun coming out from behind those dark clouds, the high, epicly delayed melodies soaring around pure optimism. It’s going to be alright somehow thanks to this completely uplifting melody as the layers keep piling on, blowing in from down in the valley. He's really playing on an emotional level here, the high trebling quiver of Explosions in the Sky, a dense heavy hand manipulating this rhythm into the top of the plateau...but it’s over as soon as it began.
There's still room for "Locusts" to hum in with slowed delayed electric not as exuberant this time. It’s insane to get this kind of range and feeling without any obvious sense of rhythm guiding this... just atmosphere and hints of tune. Feedback from just barely touching the strings becomes a ringing out, long distortion ride. Doubled up metal string scratching, like insects, far off dangerous, ominous and infinite... it’s getting louder, more desperate, hardly human. A depressing chiming low melody starts in behind this wall of a single repeated note which might have been the impetus for the entire track. The time Guilty Ghosts take to slowly develop these tracks is impressive and like the rest of the 10”'s in this series it’s an exhausting ride of guitar exploration.
Super limited pressing on marble vinyl, housed in a blank white sleeve with a handprinted printed mythical scene from Harding St. Assembly Labs.