offthesky: Light Loss
There's much to admire about Jason Corder's latest offthesky release. One of its strengths is its unpredictability: each of its five pieces takes the listener to a different place, and it's impossible to predict where the next track will venture before it arrives. Produced by Corder in Denver and California between 2012 and 2014, Light Loss arrives in the now-familiar discbox-slider package favoured by Dronarivm, though the release also is available in a special edition that involves a handcrafted box and six photo inserts. That the fifty-six-minute recording will include a surprise or two can be gleaned from the credits list alone; the closing track, for example, features Morgan Packard on sax and Nicholas Kidd on drums, not exactly the kind of thing one might expect on an offthesky album. Corder supplements his own guitar, piano, and effects with the contributions of cellist Jiah Shin, violinist Julie Slater, and vocalists Shilpi Gupta and Sarah H. Dot.
As per its title, Light Loss is conceptually rooted in the idea of seasonal change and the psychological effects that go along with it, including the downtrodden mood brought on by winter as well as the spirit of renewal engendered by spring's arrival. In keeping with the album's theme, the music encompasses both dark, atonal episodes and light, harmonious passages.
Aided by Carl Ritger's noise effects, the opening setting, “Mouthful of Silence,” certainly conveys the bleak oppressiveness some associate with winter, but the gloom lifts somewhat for “Dream Coma,” even if it does suggest a barren wasteland populated by few signs of life. True to its title, the piece could pass for an aural transcription of a comatose patient's inner state, especially when it ebbs and flows so gently, and the eventual appearance of organ-like tones comes across like the sudden emergence into consciousness of a suppressed memory. The flirtation with darkness reasserts itself during the eerie nightscape “Bloodletting” when curdling cello textures, Dot's wordless vocalizations, and ambient-electronic treatments drift woozily. The most peaceful moments on Light Loss surface within “If We Were A Lake,” a lovely, ethereal setting featuring Gupta's celestial vocal exhalations, blurry piano accents, and the rustic cry of Slater's violin.
It's the title track that offers the biggest share of surprises, however. Not only does it include the aforementioned Packard and Kidd, it also stretches out for an epic twenty-one minutes. A slow-building exercise that swells from restrained ambient meditation to tumultuous, free-form roar, Corder has the soundscape advance incrementally, with Packard's sax surfacing nine minutes in as more of a ghostly bleat than standard soloing instrument and Kidd's cymbal and drum splashes entering three minutes later. Though the Denver, Colorado-based sound artist's been producing electronic music for over fifteen years, Light Loss is anything but a retread of where Corder's been before, and it speaks highly on behalf of his imagination that with so many years of creative work behind him he's still able to surprise.