Growing: The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light
Growing must be vying for the title of 'La Monte Young's Favorite Band,' judging by the four dreamy pieces collected on the group's follow-up to last year's kranky debut The Sky's Run Into the Sea. But while its sound is often huge, Growing is a mere duo, specifically Kevin Doria and Joe Denardo, which conjures a timeless sonic universe using nothing more than guitars and bass. It's not a noise group, however. While Doria and Denardo clearly embrace the primal power of the drone, their sound is loud but not dissonant or cacophonous, and is seldom if ever grating but instead clean. It's a primordial, cosmic, and rapturous sound, elemental in force and ethereal in effect. Certainly they're capable of raw power, as “Anaheim II” so obviously shows when its guitar-drenched roar of grainy fuzz hammers relentlessly for seven minutes; one faintly detects other sounds at the drone's center struggling to break free, while seething shards fleetingly separate from the mass. But more typically Growing's music sounds controlled and, as a result, emanates greater tension.
Perhaps the most representative Growing piece is the eighteen-minute opener “Onement” where shuddering guitar lines give way to lapping drones that sway hypnotically and then glacially morph into harmonium-like drones that swell even further. Halfway through, seashore sounds impose a literal context upon the material while also prompting the shuddering guitars to return. The drones emerge again as the guitars fade, until an abrupt cymbal noise appears and rises in volume and intensity until it virtually engulfs the other sounds. When it abruptly ends, the silence that follows is startling. The piece impresses by showing how something transfixing can be generated using the most minimal of means.
“Epochal Reminiscence” contrasts markedly from “Onement.” In place of drones, crystalline tones that resemble harmoniums and organs appear alongside gargantuan guitar slabs, their low-slung manner resembling swooping glissandi as they rise and fall. The piece sounds more free-form, more incantatory and raga-like, with the guitars adopting the traditional role of the supplicating voice. While radically unlike “Onement,” it's equally powerful. With its gentle, languid guitar shimmer and bass drones, the final composition, “Primitive Associations / Great Mass Above,” adopts a more peaceful ambient style but is weakened by the too-literal presence of water droplets and bird chirps.
Certainly the album title evokes the ‘60s and the group's musical style can't help but engender associations with La Monte Young and his Theatre of Eternal Music, yet at the same time there is a timeless dimension to the music, rendering the date of its creation moot. The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light sounds like it could have been issued in 1970, but it also sounds like it might just as credibly be scheduled for 2030.