Bexar Bexar: Tropism
Western Vinyl

Et Ret: Gasworks
Western Vinyl

There appears to be no shortage of quality music pouring forth from independent labels these days, and new releases from Western Vinyl's Et Ret and Bexar Bexar only lend further support to that contention.

No identity is disclosed for Et Ret (though apparently the artist recorded folk songs under a different name for many years) who constructed the eight engaging instrumentals on his Gasworks debut using primarily violin, cello, and guitar. Entire sections of strings see-saw through “The First Day,” their rustic keening anchored by the delicate lulling pluck of an acoustic guitar; here and elsewhere, the vibe is relaxed and explorative, homemade in feel without sounding too ragged or unfinished. The mood turns darker and spikier in songs like “The Need for Work” and “Community” when voices, rough-edged guitar, synthesizers, and hand percussion accents meld into hallucinatory drones. Countering such dissonance are placid settings like “Apokalyptein,” the mournful “It Was Pure Folly,” and the meditative closer “Letting Go of the Balloon.” Certainly Dirty Three offers a reasonably close analogue to Et Ret, though the latter eschews the aggressive intensity Dirty Three includes as a dynamic contrast to its more delicate passages. Et Ret, on the other hand, is more intent on caressing the listener with a multi-layered swoon than in bludgeoning with grandiose climaxes.

A homemade ambiance and reflective dimension permeates Tropism too but, if anything, Bexar Bexar pushes Et Ret's sound to an even dreamier and more peaceful level. Glistening acoustic strums and flutter drift through a sea of smeary crackle in “Oil Thumbprints”; deepening the song's nostalgic dimension, the sounds conjure long-forgotten childhood memories of summery seashores. Though coloured by subtle electronic touches, Tropism's pieces are entirely free of dissonance; in “Listening to Your Party,” for instance, a melancholy guitar melody softly emerges against a backdrop of faint bird sounds and electronic ripples. A sadness pervades much of the material (“The Messy Message,” “Sweet Devil”), lending it an affecting gravitas, while shimmering settings like “Window Piece” and “Unsettled and Unstable” are about as lovely and tranquil as pastoral ambient music gets.

April 2006