Man Watching the Stars: Dusk

A Man Watching the Stars—and playing a violin while doing so, that is. The man in question is Brendan Paxton, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio and previously graced textura's pages in a review of Afar, Farewell, a memorable 2012 collaboration issued on Rural Colours involving Paxton and Jason Corder (aka offthesky). Self-released on Paxton's net-label CIÙIN, Dusk sees him presenting eighty minutes of violin-based meditations all by his lonesome. It's uniformly wonderful stuff that lovers of strings-heavy ambient soundscaping are well advised to track down.

Paxton's in no rush, as the generous running time of many pieces, five of them longer than nine minutes, makes clear. Dusk's material reminds me at times of Marvin Ayres' music—which doesn't surprise, given that Ayres also uses string instruments and technological means to create his own hypnotic soundscapes. In the opening “Fields,” Paxton weaves multiple violins into an entrancing, slow-burning mass out of which a single violin, and sometimes a second one in counterpoint to it, often extricates itself to intone plaintively as a solo voice. Traces of heavily processed field recordings are audible within the first track, but elsewhere Paxton limits his focus to the violin and the gear he uses to multiply the instrument's sound into dense fields of undulating shimmer.

While the album is characterized by uniformity, there are subtle differences between the ten tracks. In keeping with its title, “The Earth Awoke” builds slowly, expanding in size and scope as it does so, and is even animated by a sequencer-like pattern that sounds more like a synthesizer than something violin-generated. In contrast to the rhythmically-charged character of “The Earth Awoke,” “Midday” is peaceful and contemplative, a twelve-minute reverie that conjures the image of someone lying on a hillside soaking up the sun's daze-inducing rays. If one piece could be said to stand for Dusk as a whole, it might be the penultimate “Xi Hydrae,” an eighteen-minute exercise in ambient immersion that unfolds with the control and precision of a meticulously planned drone strike. Though Dusk is a long recording at eighty minutes that demands patience from the listener, its a patience that's amply rewarded.

January 2015