braeyden jae: Fog Mirror
Whited Sepulchre

Salt Lake City-based musician Braden McKenna has issued cassette releases on labels such as Patient Sounds, A Giant Fern, Hel Audio, and Horror Fiction, but textura readers might know him best as the founder of the tape label Inner Islands, many of whose releases have appeared in these pages. McKenna also produces music under a number of aliases, including braeyden jae, and has the distinction of releasing the first-ever full-length on Whited Sepulchre, a small-run vinyl and tape label dedicated to experimental music.

Pressed on creamy, baby-powdered white vinyl, Fog Mirror rolls in like an all-consuming cloud of granular dust and static. Listen carefully and melodic fragments, piano chords, and other instrument sounds can be heard buried under the material's uppermost layers. No instrumentation is identified on the physical package, but apparently McKenna uses bass guitar and presumably a range of effects and treatments to generate the dense, crackling masses that billow through the forty-one-minute album's five ambient-drone pieces. McKenna generally downplays dissonance and abrasiveness in his productions; instead, the sounds wrap themselves around the listener very much as would, yes, a fog.

Fog Mirror's pitched by Whited Sepulchre as “the aural equivalent of watching a thick gray blanket envelop some distant, cliffed coastline,” and the description proves apt. Comparisons to Tim Hecker and Gas are as inevitable as they are understandable, even if McKenna pushes the density factor to a greater extreme than they do; during the relentless roar of “Two Mirrors Looking,” his material even begins to take on an industrial, sheet-metal sheen.

The Gas connection in particular is hard to avoid during “More Washed Feeler” when braeyden jae's muffled melody murmurs in a manner strongly reminiscent of a typical Gas production. Echoes of Robert Fripp, on the other hand, emerge when the e-bow-like cut-and-thrust of a guitar forces its way to the surfaces of “Obscured and Waiting” and the album's twelve-minute closer “Fogged Placer.” In such cases, McKenna becomes the sonic equivalent of a slow-motion action painter, fearlessly slashing his large canvas with the boldest of strokes.

May 2016