Channeling: Bluffs
Polar Seas Recordings

Bluffs by Brooklyn-based producer Andrew Osterhoudt (aka Channeling) presents a really interesting addition to the Polar Seas catalogue. The half-hour cassette release (issued in a fifty-copy edition) features three ambient-drone tracks, two seamlessly blended pieces on side one and on the flip an eleven-minute tribute to Prince recorded on the day the Purple One died. Not to take anything away from the opening tracks, but it's the tribute that gives the release a special aura.

“Drift” introduces the release with softly glimmering tones floating through an enveloping mass of grainy distortion, the effect soothing as opposed to unsettling. As the piece progresses, the intensity and activity levels escalate and the volume increases as electronic elements and pulsating synth flares push their way to the surface. Around the seven-minute mark a measure of calm sets in, even as the focus shifts to stuttering guitar patterns, and the transition into “Bluffs” transpires without pause. The sense of peace established by the echoing guitar fragments continues thereafter until the sound mass morphs into throbbing, fuzz-laden waves of distortion that would do Tim Hecker proud.

If “Doves” sounds vaguely familiar to Prince fans, it should: to create the soundscape, Osterhoudt manipulated the melody to “When Doves Cry” using a lo-fi sampler. It's doesn't come off as an act of plagiarism, however, but rather a heartfelt homage to a sorely missed artist. Further to that, rather than directly referencing the original's melodies, the Channeling treatment subtly alludes to it by treating the material in an ambient-drone manner consistent with the other tracks. Patterns emerge but do so obliquely, smothered as they are by layers of hiss and static, and the tribute ends up impressing as a fascinating gesture of appreciation by one creator for another.

November 2017