Aaron Martin and Joseph Angelo join forces under the suitably cryptic Black Vines moniker for this self-titled, hour-long set of deep dronescaping. More precisely, the two are responsible for four originals while Dag Rosenqvist is credited with reworking them into four additional settings. Martin's a bit of a known quantity in these parts, as a number of his recordings have received coverage in textura's pages before, among them his solo album Worried About the Fire and collaborations with Christoph Berg (Day Has Ended), Machinefabriek (Cello Recycling / Cello Drowning), and Justin Wright (Light Poured Out of Our Bones). A less familiar presence is Angelo, a multi-instrumentalist who performs under the name Luperci and brings his love of Indian ragas, meditative minimalism, and industrial noise to the collaboration. On Black Vines, Angelo plays sitar (his primary instrument) and ARP Odyssey and Martin cello, bass, glockenspiel, banjo, organ, lap steel guitar, and percussion (singing bowls, bowed cymbal, saw).
The recording's tone is established by the slow-burn of “Willow Choir,” a dark, immolating meditation so enveloping it feels like a shroud; the primary focal point is Martin's stirring cello playing, even if it sometimes threatens to be consumed by the rumbling mass around it. Plunging even deeper, “Fields Burning at Dusk” drops us into the center of a post-apocalyptic industrial zone still spiked by explosive ruptures, after which “The Shadows We Cast” sings a searing elegy for the dead in a style that calls to mind the lethal howl of La Monte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music. In a piece that spotlights the collaborators in equal measure, “Glass Memory” punctuates Martin's plaintive vocal and cello expressions with Angelo's sitar strums.Each of Rosenqvist's versions of Black Vines' material turns out to be different from the others in terms of dynamics and mood. “Fields” initially brings the volume level down for a clinical treatment so disturbing it suggests insects crawling under one's skin, but gradually swells until it reaches a combustible pitch that feels like a detonation about to go off. Offsetting its dark tone, “Glass” oozes melodic uplift and even unexpectedly works a thrusting beat pattern into its arrangement, but it's the treatment of “The Shadows We Cast” that is Rosenqvist's finest moment. Working his way methodically through the material, the producer pushes his way upwards through dense foliage and then, with the music growing quieter, takes his triumphant place at the summit to breathe in the air and ponder the spectacular view. On a final note, too much shouldn't be made of the fact that in time-related terms, Rosenqvist's versions take up a slightly larger share of the album's total minutes, as the material is still Black Vine's from start to finish, despite the fact that four are makeovers.