Amman.Josh: Places

The Soul's Release: Where the Trees are Painted White

Dynamophone set the design bar so high in the presentation of its past releases that the modest hand letter-pressed cover packaging of two chapters in its new ‘Folio' series comes as a bit of a surprise. No matter: the EPs' musical contents are as exquisite as anything else the label has issued, and more than uphold its reputation for refined electronic-based music-making.

Amman Abbasi (of The Abbasi Brothers, naturally) and Josh Varnedore team up for five lovely teasers for an upcoming album currently in the works. Until that sees the light of day, the stirring and time-suspending electroacoustic meditations on Places will do very nicely indeed. That the duo composed the songs in Iceland, Arkansas, and in New York feels apropos, given the quietly panoramic expansiveness of the EP's understated material. With voices exhaling alongside gentle guitar shadings and electronic streams, “Ouachita” breathes as softly as a whispering breeze.“Leawood” presents a three-minute dreamscape of stately piano playing and glimmering synthetics, while “Bayshore” submerges the listener deeply into an ambient sea. The group's sound grows even denser in its collaboration with Hammock (Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson), “Melting the Frozen Sea Within Us,” when chiming guitars merge with hazy electronics. Built from a core of guitars, keyboards, and electronics, Amman/Josh's ravishing sound is quintessential Dynamophone.

The half-hour EP Where The Trees Are Painted White is an amazingly accomplished collection of work, especially when one considers that the person behind The Soul's Release's curtain is Alex Rich who's all of eighteen years old. Based on the six tracks featured here, the Oregon prodigy assembles a given track layer by layer by supplementing the core guitar element with piano, bass, glockenspiel, vocals, and electronics. Perhaps it's just a coincidence but Rich's bass patterns closely resemble those Mike Oldfield plays on Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge—the similarities are especially clear on “Catching Fireflies.” That setting alternates between stately piano-based playing and chiming guitar filigrees, after which “Where the Trees are Painted White” opts for a more breezy country vibe in its spacious blend of acoustic guitars and piano. “Sleeping Through the Night” serves up a lovely lullaby with electric guitar and piano spinning soothing melodies, even if the slumber is disrupted slightly by the inclusion of drums. Tracks such as this bespeak a sophistication far beyond Rich's years, which will make it interesting to hear what the future holds for someone so preternaturally talented. Any way you cut it, it's a remarkable debut.

April 2010