Rain-cloud: Rain-cloud

Brian Ellis: Free Way

Rain-cloud and Free Way are two recent installments in Benbecula's Minerals Series which sees an album released each month in a limited quantity. On its self-titled debut album, Rain-cloud (Dom Dixon aka talkingmakesnosense and Alec Cheer) traffics in a tranquil electroacoustic style where lulling environmental soundscapes are faintly discoloured by mechanical rhythms, shudders, static, and the. Acoustic and, to a lesser degree, electric guitars occupy the front-line with droning streams of electronic noise softly resounding in the distance. The group name is well-chosen as it connects Rain-cloud to the natural landscape but, more importantly, its music does too. The duo's peaceful material evocatively conjures images of vast countryside panoramas and early-morning, seaside tranquility, the music's meditative character conveyed by titles like “I Sit Here all Day” and “Keeping a Low Profile.” “Cloud Surprise,” for example, doesn't announce the sudden onset of a violent storm but instead suggests a slow, stately drift of cumulous clouds across an immense blue sky. Sometimes, the background noise translates into programmatic content, like the loud rippling noise produced by deeply-gouged vinyl that suggests a storm-tossed setting in “Faulty Spaceship Two.” Rain-cloud will appeal to those drawn to the ‘ambient electroacoustic' material that's sometimes issued by labels like Type and CCO sub-label Büro.

Free Way by Californian Brian Ellis is anything but meditative soundscaping. Ellis's own Benbecula debut (soon to be followed in August by The Silver Creature) inhabits an explorative jazz-electronic zone situated halfway between Flanger and On the Corner- era Miles Davis. With its free flow of drums, tenor sax, guitar, bass, electronics, and echoplexed trumpet wah-wah, the psychedelic space-jazz of “Deep and Out” sounds like an outtake from a lost 1972 Miles session. If the material is entirely constructed by Ellis alone (often impossible to tell these days), he effects a remarkably convincing simulation of a full band's interplay on extended workouts like “Smeared Smiled” and the thirteen-minute “The New Free Way.” Transporting the album momentarily to India, tablas generate agitated, up-tempo rhythms in “ Escondido ” before sax and drums barrel in and assume center stage. A nice change of pace, “Abmilak” closes the album placidly with a kalimba-laden setting. Ultimately, Ellis's release may deploy a markedly different production methodology than that of On the Corner, Agharta, et al., but, sonically, Free Way doesn't stray radically from the template established by those releases.

July 2007