Aria Rostami and Daniel Blomquist: Wandering Eye
Glacial Movements Records

Though you might not necessarily know it from listening to their debut album Wandering Eye, San Francisco, CA-based sound artists Aria Rostami and Daniel Blomquist work a number of different chance operations into their productions, the idea being that the surrendering of creative control will allow for unforeseen developments to fortuitously emerge. By way of illustration, Rostami might first generate a compositional framework for a piano piece by using answers from a questionnaire as a basis for decisions about key and note selections and then pass the result on to Blomquist for further manipulation; depending on the nature of the material, it then will be either sent back and forth or perhaps left as is. Processing treatments might be applied, and layers of drones, static, field recordings, and synthesizers also might be added as the material advances towards its final form.

A typical track unfolds slowly, with multiple layers of ambient textures accumulating into a dense, opaque mass. Much like an object gradually assuming form as it emerges from a thick blanket of fog, a theme, voiced by either synthesizer or piano, gradually appears, though both generally surface during the track's presentation. “Dome C 75.06° S 123.23° E 3233m” was produced using Rostami's processed piano recordings as a starting point, even if the blustery masses and cavernous rumbles dominating the melancholy set-piece in its presented form evidence little trace of acoustic piano as conventionally heard. “Dome F 77.19° S 39.42° E 3810m” alternates between becalmed and disruptive episodes, with placid synthesizer figures punctuated by a piercing horn-like noise, while “Ridge A 81.5° S 73.5° E 4053m,” recorded live in Blomquist's basement, threads samples, field recordings, and synthesizers into a fourteen-minute collage whose woozy quality lends it a somewhat Philip Jeck-like character. Indicative of how much a production can evolve from beginning to end, “Ridge B ~76° S ~94.75° E ~3750m” started out as a cover by Rostami of a Persian pop song (Googoosh's “Do Panjereh”) before turning into the brooding array of gaseous currents and radio static presented on the recording.

Taken from the published paper “Where is the Best Site on Earth?,” the six track titles reference the best geographical locations at the Antarctic Plateau from which to view space. Yet as cold as Antarctica is, Rostami and Blomquist's material exudes a significant degree of warmth, in large part due to the pronounced melodic dimension that humanizes the album tracks. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on sonic texture in the duo's ambient-electronic meditations, most in the ten-minute range, but balancing the music's abstract character is an equal concentration on melody, and it's this in particular that helps make Wandering Eye not only more accessible but a genuine pleasure to listen to.

November 2016