Randy Gibson
Spotlight 14

A Gap Between
Animal Trainer
Robbie Basho
Olga Bell
Keith Berry
Bly de Blyant
Christoph Bruhn
Dewa Budjana
Children Of The Stones
Loren Connors
Croy and McCann
Douglas Detrick
Elektro Guzzi
Alejandro Franov
Grenier & Archie Pelago
Paul Hazendonk
Quentin Hiatus
Peter Kutin
Elise Mélinand
Nicole Mitchell
Tomotsugu Nakamura
Danny Norbury
Fatima Al Qadiri
Steve Roach
Shield Patterns
Soft Machine Legacy
Sontag Shogun
Spotlight Kid
Stein Urheim
Strata Florida
Strom Noir
Vittoria Fleet
Antje Vowinckel
Lionel Weets

Compilations / Mixes
Maya Jane Coles

EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
AGC Esquire
Alix Perez
You'll Never Get to Heaven

Maxwell August Croy and Sean McCann: “I”
Students Of Decay

Sean McCann was the recipient of justifiable acclaim for his 2013 modern composition recording Music for Private Ensemble, but this debut full-length collaboration with Maxwell August Croy strikes me as even more satisfying. Composed and recorded in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the thirty-seven-minute collection fulfills its presumed goals splendidly. The style of the material would seem to be in line with the kind of music Croy creates as one-half of the Bay Area duo EN, which sees him processing koto, voice, and other instrumentation into drone-based compositions.

There's an appealingly unassuming vibe about the recording, with ambient noises audible before a piece commences and even sometimes during its quieter moments. But once the music starts, the two are all business. The opening “Parting Light (Suite)” inaugurates the release with cyclic flurries of koto, cello, and violin patterns intricately weaving together to hypnotic effect. Hints of Classical Minimalism are suggested by the repetitive patterns, though the impression is camouflaged by the rustic naturalism of the acoustic instruments' sounds. It truly is a suite, by the way, as the opening section abruptly gives way to a sparsely arranged middle episode where the plucks of Croy's koto are rendered more conspicuous, before the dense weave of the opening is reinstated for the close.

It's the second piece, “Alexandria,” that is the recording's greatest accomplishment, however. As beautiful and majestic a drone as one might hope to encounter, the nine-minute setting achieves a kind of celestial grandeur in the sunblinded quality of its shimmering haze. Thick, electrified sheets of sound extend languorously in slow motion, with the result a quietly exultant cloud mass of immense scope—the kind of extraordinary music one would like to see carry on without end. Something undeniably soul-stirring occurs when drones are generated using acoustic means, and that's definitely what happens here.

Such an incredible piece of music can't help but overshadow the four tracks that follow, all of which are strong in their own right but not at the level of “Alexandria.” An appealingly rustic, outdoorsy quality pervades “Momjii,” especially when lilting plucks are deployed to rhythmically augment keening violin strokes, but the one that comes closest to equaling “Alexandria” is “The Inlet Arc,” an expertly executed dreamscape that in its own quietly stirring way is powerful, too. Ultimately, though, too much shouldn't be made of the fact that one piece stand outs from the others. The recording as a whole is special indeed, and one that amply rewards repeat visits.

May 2014