AREA C: Map of Circular Thought

Erik Carlson received justifiable acclaim for his 2009 live set The Planetarium Project, an ambitious double-disc collection that saw him collaborating with Black Forest / Black Sea, Eyes Like Saucers, and Mudboy. Issued on Preservation as the second installment in a limited-edition CD series (300 copies available), Map of Circular Thought finds the Providence, Rhode Island-based multi-media artist following it up with seven mini-constellations of flicker and thrum produced using guitar, organ, keyboard, and drum machine. Carlson uses his main instrument, the guitar, in refreshingly unconventional manner as a remarkably rich generator of textural detail. With the guitar's sonic range presumably extended via effects and pedals, Carlson weaves dense flurries of rhythm and melodic patterns into the album's multi-tiered and incessantly mutating settings. The album is satisfyingly paced with three brief pieces interspersed amongst four longer ones ranging from ten to twenty-two minutes.

Carlson doesn't call attention to his music in the way some might by using grand gestures, crushing climaxes, and sonic extremes; more often than not, he opts for an even-toned, contemplative flow where sounds congeal into wholes rather than splinter apart. His approach is more artful and nuanced by comparison, and one would be better to think of him as a rigorous architect of sound, someone who constructs meticulous structures using numerous small elements as his palette. Never is that more apparent than during “An After Image” where warbling pulsations initially lend it a kosmische musik feel before the gradually accumulating layers build it up into something considerably more intricate, even grandiose. Some of the pieces are purer guitar-based explorations (e.g., “Felt, Not Seen”) while others veer closer to simulated small ensemble settings wherein drum machines anchor organ and guitar interplay (e.g., “Twos”). In addition to “In Toward the Wires,” a fuzz-toned dirge that occasionally flirts with noise, there's the epic “Ebbs to a Steady Burn,” a model of patience that subtly swells over the course of its twenty-two minutes into a vibrant, droning stream of electrical radiance.

March 2011