Concern: Cæsarean
Slow Flow Rec

Under the Concern moniker, Oregon, USA resident Gordon Ashworth produces thick, shimmering electroacoustic drones of harmonious design that emphasize the acoustic end of the spectrum rather than the synthetic or electronic—more tape loop manipulation than digital assembly. If Cæsarean is overlong at seventy-seven minutes, there's at least a reason for its being so: the last two of its five tracks previously appeared on a 2007 Students of Decay release, and said two tracks account for forty-three minutes of Cæsarean's playing time. At thirty-four minutes, the penultimate track, “Immersed in Envy, Porous with Forgetfulness,” could pass for a mini-album all by itself. One might expect that a piece of such length eventually would wear out its welcome but to Ashworth's credit it doesn't. If anything, it's the album's key track in the immersive pull it exerts on the listener.

The instrumentation used to create the material is listed “in order of appearance” (just as a play's dramatis personae are listed prior to the play's text) and includes “piano, clarinet, banjo, shruti box, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, chord organ, harmonium, springs, bass processed by quarter-inch tape, cassette tape, octave pedal and reverberation.” Computer processing obviously isn't mentioned, an omission that might be less an oversight than an acknowledgement that such production elements are now so fundamental to the process they no longer require mention. Or it could simply be that Asworth eschewed computer production altogether and went wholly ‘old-school' in creating the material.

The recording opens with “Discrete Memorial,” whose limpid flow of hiccuping piano, clarinet, banjo, and guitars swims in a bath of tape hiss and slowly gathers into a singular mass that swells to a crescendo. In “From Warmth and From Violence,” field recordings of tolling bells, crowd noise, and other sounds meld into a gently surging mass that slowly expands and contracts in size and volume. There's often a Celer-like tendency to shape the instruments' sounds into an undifferentiated, blurry whole that resembles an immense cloud formation, and the lulling tape loop effect that often emerges calls to mind the work of William Basinski. Though many instruments are used, often the organ and harmonium dominate (such as during the closer, “Leaving Gold”), which lends the material a quasi-psychedelic character.

One of the things that recommends Concern's material and his overall approach is that each track ultimately follows a strong arc whose shape becomes all the more clear in hindsight. That is, admittedly, something easier to maintain when tracks are under the ten-minute mark and harder to hold onto in the album's two longer settings; the longest one in particular (“Immersed in Envy, Porous with Forgetfulness”) assumes more of a collage-like or patchwork quality when its many parts (including field recordings of voices, traffic noise, water drizzle, waves crashing, and thunder) are stitched into an immense, episodic whole.

October 2010