Raglani: Of Sirens Born

Though new to the kranky roster, Joseph Raglani has issued a goodly amount of material (an LP, tapes, CD-Rs, small-run CDs) on a number of experimental labels, including his own Pegasus Farms. His thirty-six-minute Of Sirens Born is heavily rooted in the krautrock tradition, but Raglani humanizes the genre's prototypically cold sound by supplementing its electronics, sine/square wave generator, and analog modular synth elements with “natural” sounds produced by acoustic guitar, melodica, and bamboo flute. Nowhere is that marriage more pointedly manifested than in the eleven-minute soundscape “The Promise of Wood and Water” where harp-like guitar plucks and resonant melodica cries call out from the dense center of the setting's swelling mass. The piece extends so far vertically it's as if Raglani has rendered in audio form the teeming plenitude of an entire wildlife sanctuary. Dental squeals rise to the surface of the track's hazy shimmer but Raglani's handling of the material renders the effect strangely peaceful instead of ear-splitting.

With song titles like “Rivers In” and “Washed Ashore” and with each piece flowing uninterruptedly into the next, a sense of travelogue can't help but be suggested, especially when each of the five sections offers contrasts of character that earmark stages in the journey (the album title, too, obviously references the Sirens who try to lure Ulysses to his doom in Homer's The Odyssey). Unlike the lulling and restrained opener, “Rivers In,” “Perilous Straits” drenches the listener with waves of violent noise and metallic snarl that wouldn't sound out of place on a Tim Hecker release—the trip at this stage clearly a perilous and nightmarish one. Rather than aurally conveying the peaceful sounds of survivors resting quietly after surviving the debacle, “Washed Ashore” first unleashes a cacophonous tirade (the disorientation and panic experienced by those cast overboard, presumably) before gradually easing up (the survivors now safely on land). The final piece, “Jubilee,” surprises too: in place of expected ambient tranquility, we get a tumultuous broil of seething psychedelia that drones relentlessly for five minutes before decompressing for a comparatively benign coda. As disorienting and blinding as the residue of a solar eclipse burned onto the retina, Raglani's heady dreamscaping makes a powerful impression.

October 2008