eyes cast down: The White Island
That Greg Moorcroft (aka eyes cast down) cites Jeff Pearce, Dirk Serries, Steve Roach, and Robert Fripp as inspirations on his fifth album's inner sleeve says much about the kind of material presented on The White Island. Don't, however, interpret the statement to mean that the material's blatantly derivative so much as that it exemplifies varying degrees of commonality with those innovators. It goes without saying that the intended listener is one with a jones for guitar-based ambient soundscaping.
All seven pieces on this latest collection by the Evanston, Illinois-based multi-instrumentalist, who's been working in the ambient field since 2004 and released his debut album, The Separate Ones, in 2013, are live improvs recorded either in the studio or in performance, the most unusual being “The Eons Are Closing,” which Moorcroft assembled from eight improvised clips. Six-string electric guitar is the dominant instrument, though twelve-string and fretless guitars, electric mandolin, E-bow, and slide also surface.
Interspersed amongst four unrelatedly titled settings are three “Mirage” pieces, the first of which spotlights the more serene and meditative side of the eyes cast down project. In this opening piece, long wisps of hushed tones drift placidly for almost nine minutes, the effect of which induces a corresponding state of calm in the listener. The guitar's chiming textures reverberate throughout the trio, and the sound of Moorcroft's shimmer proves alluring (how fitting that another track is titled “Submerge”).
While the frenetic pace of the world slows dramatically in accordance with the soothing ambiance of “Mirage One,” the subsequent “The Four Directions Seemed Aflame,” executed by Moorcroft using fretless guitar with E-bow, exposes a rather darker dimension in featuring steelier timbres and, with four loops in play, the material's also denser and slightly more haunting.With its eight sixteen-bar improvised sections sourced from four instruments (six-string, twelve-string, fretless with E-bow, and electric mandolin), “The Eons Are Closing” is literally and figuratively the album's centerpiece. Eerie and episodic, the sixteen-minute setting plays like an exploration into an uncharted zone where thick winds swirl alongside guttural noises suggestive of an alien life-form. As unusual as “The Eons Are Closing” is, it's matched by “Mystic Memory” for the simple fact that its slide playing, which Moorcroft pairs with twelve-string during the fifteen-minute exercise, suggests nothing less than the mournful wail of an abandoned alley cat. Though the seven pieces on The White Island collectively constitute a unified whole, noticeable degrees of contrast are generated when these two long-form settings present arresting experimental counterparts to the comparatively serene “Mirage” improvs.