aMUTE: A Hundred Dry Trees

Following closely upon the heels of Tony Bogg's (aka Joshua Treble) recent Five Points Fincastle, Mitchell Akiyama's intr_version label maintains the high level with aMUTE's A Hundred Dry Trees. Like Bogg's release, the textured guitar-based ambient style of A Hundred Dry Trees makes it the perfect choice for fans of Fennesz, Oval, and Tim Hecker. Jérome Deuson's (aka aMUTE) debut is an assured and finely calibrated collection of gaseous, sculpted dreamscapes that largely eschews beats, although simple tribal patterns occasionally surface to establish some hint of rhythm. Sounds morph fluidly throughout, with the clean, crystalline lines of the guitar acting as a stabilizing reference.

In the opening track, bass thrum and Scanner-like whispers form a rhythmic base while keening lines shimmer above, followed by ambient guitars that increasingly swirl until they approximate a swarming hive. “Landslips” becomes an exercise in droning ambiance where sounds bleed into others and ambient whorls thicken while bells faintly chime. Equally peaceful is “A l'ombre de 12000 Médias” where hushed voices rain down amidst percussive noises like rain pattering against a window. At this stage, the intensity begins to escalate, as the guitar lines in “(Lose nothing but happiness cause) from where I stand (I can see they have already won)” bleed into a blurry, thrumming mass, and in “Se laisser aller en tournant or Let it go Swirling” guitars swell amidst clouds of static. The first five pieces build towards the climax of the recording, the incredible, tumultuous “Aux creux des vagues, mon visage (hasn't stopped to call for peace).” Stretched out over twelve minutes, it begins bucolically as glockenspiels ring out amidst alarm beeps and tearing static that settle into an almost funky rhythm. Grand, piercing guitar lines (à la Godspeed) ring out dramatically, foreshadowing the tsunami ahead, and soon the piece rises to a distorted, cacophonous broil. Yet just when one expects it to recede, another raw episode emerges, as a primitive thwacking beat and distorted raw guitar lines generate an unbelievable roar of distortion which finally subsides, leaving plucked guitar lines to survey the scorched aftermath. A delicate interlude of bucolic shimmer offers a momentary respite before the bell chimes and gentle guitar picking of “Oublier et doucement …repartir” segue into the closing, oddly musical sounds of an unaccompanied French voice.

At first listen, A Hundred Dry Trees sounds rather unassuming, and it is more singular in its mood compared to Five Points Fincastle, for example. But a more focused listen brings its subtleties into sharper relief, and one then realizes just how skillfully Deuson modulates its transitions from relative calm to raw intensity and back. While the sensuousness of the recording's sounds gives it an immediate visceral appeal, it's the manner by which it coheres into a compositional whole that impresses most of all.

May 2004