Offthesky & Pleq: A Thousand Fields

A Thousand Fields offers a splendid representative example of what can happen when two electronic producers pool their considerable talents. That it's the first collaboration between Colorado-based offthesky (Jason Corder) and Poland-based Pleq (Bartosz Dziadosz) comes as a bit of a surprise, given how seamlessly the two have blended their contributions on the fifty-six-minute release. But then again, perhaps it shouldn't be: after all, both producers are veteran ambient-electronic recording artists who collectively have been involved in dozens of recordings, whether they be solo releases, collaborations, or compilations. At this stage of the game, both artists are well-versed in the art of music-making and know how to bring out the best in those with whom they're working.

A classic example of ambient soundscaping, “Ashes of America” unfolds with serious intent, with string and horn accents forebodingly punctuating a rumbling base of bells and amorphous textures; in keeping with its title, a distinctly American-styled character eventually asserts itself when an Ives-ian trumpet figure rises alongside the strings. The portentous tone of the opener carries over into the second setting, “Drown Under Dream Lit Skies,” in its industrial textures and field recordings, not to mention the crepuscular tone of the material. Acoustic instruments mingle with abstract sounds in these pieces so naturally that the listener shifts away from identifying individual sounds to focusing on the sound design as a totality.

Though one comes to “Witch Season” expecting a macabre treatment, Corder and Dziadosz present an evocative sound portrait that's considerably more welcoming. Elegant piano flourishes, bowed glass-like effects, and shimmering textures meld together to form a placid setting tinged with mysticism. Even more evocative is “Delicate Exit” for the rising melodic figure that surfaces repeatedly, a phrase whose English Horn-like voicing lends the material a powerful pastoral quality. The longest piece at fourteen minutes, “Wands Upon a Thousand Fields” gets a vinyl side all to itself and makes the most of it in offering an action-packed sojourn through what alternately resembles a war-torn zone or a jungle teeming with agitated creatures, with all of it accompanied by heavy percussive strikes and wordless choral vocalizing. The recording's rich in such meditations, pieces that effect stillness without sacrificing incident.

I would be remiss in not tipping my hat to Infraction for presenting the material so appealingly. Packaged in a heavy gatefold sleeve in a 500-copy edition, the seven tracks are spread across four heavy vinyl sides, and the first 300 hundred copies of the release come with a bonus seven-inch (in a separate sleeve) titled Still Your Bones and featuring a short solo track by each of the artists involved. Though their brief pieces aren't quite at the level of the album material proper, the single nevertheless makes for a lovely enhancement to the release as a whole.

October 2015