Monday, 9 March 2015


"The line across"
Year:    2010
Country:    US
City:     Los Angeles
Label:    Alt.Vinyl
Format:   LP
Tracks:    2
Time:    60 min.
Genre:    electronic
Style:           Modern Classical           Ambient

Clarinettist Gareth Davis and guitarist Steven R Smith (Hala Strana, Mirza, Thuja) have already collaborated to stunning effect back on 2009’s “Westering” released on the Important label. This alt.vinyl release sees them gain another notch in history’s belt. The at-first-glance bizarre pairing of these two instruments might conjure up images of anchorless skronk and scratch, however “The Line Across” is anything but. With each side of the vinyl containing just the one ambitious piece, this duo creates seas of organic drone that live and breathe.

Unspooling like wisps of smoke, the tones of “Other Forms of Consecrated Life” simultaneously conjure exotica and melancholy. What Davis and Smith manage to pull off here is the sound of flickering reflections in canal tunnels, something beyond drone and soundscaping; 3/4 cloud cover sporadically parting to reveal abyssic drops within it. It is not all intangible drift though; raw guitar sequences (even rhythm parts) appear in the sound as clarinet echoes and violin/fiddle tensions make textures from foreboding trails of drones. If a piece of shorthand could be applied to Steven R Smith’s playing here, then picture a Colour Haze or Earth trading instrumental punches with Derek Bailey through a Styrofoam cup phone.

On the flipside is “The Natural History of Devastation”, a piece that falls somewhere on the fields far beyond descriptions and sounds of grace and mourning. There are unconscious nods to a GYBE! sound here, layered stately string sounds and the chiaroscuro of feedback and waves of black moving across the vinyl. This track is a slow lull of strangled clarion call, Orbison’s cold fingers on the guitar and banks of fog leaving only loss in the sound’s wake. Things might not at first listen appear like they’re going to be ok in the morning, but familiarity with “The Line Across” shows that they might just end up close to perfect after all. (*NOTE = this review is from HERE ).
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Year:    2009
Country:    US
City:     Los Angeles
Label:    Immune rec.
Format:    LP
Tracks:    10
Time:    40 min.
Genre:    classical , electronic
Style:           Modern Classical           Ambient

STEVEN R. SMITH is an American musician, instrument-builder, and printmaker often associated with the Jewelled Antler collective. Born in Fullerton, California and based in San Francisco and, more recently, Los Angeles, he has been musically active since the mid-1990s. His main instrument is guitar, both acoustic and electric, although other instruments, including the hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki, fretted spike fiddles, and assorted ethnic instruments, have been incorporated into his work. Smith’s music tends to range from dense, orchestrated pieces to sparse solo excursions on electric guitar and is improvised as often as composed. His music has drawn elements from psychedelic rock, traditional folk music, soundtracks, free jazz, and modern composers, and tends to be contemplative and somewhat mournful. Some of his records feature elaborate packaging, woodcut and linocut prints, and handmade chapbooks. Throughout his career Smith has recorded for a number of independent labels such as Important Records, Soft Abuse, Catsup Plate, Root Strata, Immune Recordings, Last Visible Dog, Jewelled Antler, Darla Records, and Emperor Jones. In November 2007 Smith issued Owl, his first solo release to extensively feature vocals and lyrics. In addition to his ongoing solo work, Smith has been a member of the instrumental psych-rock group Mirza; the improvisational group Thuja; Hala Strana, a project which focuses on the traditional music of Eastern Europe; and most recently Ulaan Khol. Smith has occasionally appeared live with Mirza and Thuja, but he remains an elusive solo permormer.
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