The music magazine Uncut recently featured a cover-mounted CD and accompanying article celebrating “Ambient Americana”, captioned “A Road Trip Across the Borders of Mental State”, while The Guardian featured investigated the “ambient country” scene in 2020. Also known as “post-country”, “cosmic pastoral” or “bootgaze”, it is a micro-genre that has been infiltrating for decades. Think of Ry Cooder’s soundtrack in Paris, Texas; The collaborations of BJ Cole with Guy Jackson or Øyvind Skarbø, the work of Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois, the avant-garde primitivism of John Fahey, or the album Chill Out by The KLF. In recent years, he’s been taken in new directions by Chuck Johnson, Mike Cooper, Marielle Jakobsons and the Nashville Hammock duo.
The latest development in the genre comes from Blank Gloss, a duo from Sacramento, Calif., Consisting of Patrick Hills and Morgan Fox. The duo have a history in thrash punk and experimental bands, but since signing with Cologne-based electronic label Kompakt, they’ve moved in a more ruminating and improvised direction. Their debut album Melt is a futuristic journey through the American desert, a journey that dismantles the sonic tropes characteristic of American roots music (steel frills with woozy pedals, slurring violins, brushed drums, the twang of a drenched electric guitar. reverb) and reassembles them as disembodied sounds, passed through an ambient filter. Where so much electronica evokes concrete brutalism, spacious warehouses and neon-lit highways, Melt suggests wide open spaces, huge skies, endless horizons and dry roads.
These improvisations often remove any rhythmic anchor – when they introduce an impulse, it is often irregular, like the twisted new age rhythms of Walking Toward the End, or the swaying double bass and piano patterns on Strewn All Over, which start at a gentle 6/8 gallop then continues to subtract beats, leaving us with a gloriously disorienting time signature. The opening track, They Who Plant, weaves a soulful EBowed guitar around synth drones and Harold Budd-style piano vocals; Rags is like a Dick Dale tour de force played to a snail beat, with a reverb drenched surf guitar playing ultra slowed arpeggios that resonate sympathetically with muted piano riffs. Best of all is the gorgeous Of a Vessel, which feels like an ECM jazz track that’s been distorted under the Mojave sun.
Also released this month
Almighty Orchestra Marcel Duchamp are a Geneva collective of 12 somewhat dilapidated musicians whose music is truly unclassifiable. Fifth LP We’re OK, But We’re Lost Anyway (Bongo Joe) jumps from drone-heavy electronics to Philip Glass-style rehearsal to gypsy fanfare practices to folk vocals and slow-burning post-punk with a alarming efficiency.
After several LPs experimenting with guest singers, samplings and dancefloor beats, the lockdown forced Portico Quartet to get back to basics with Terrain (Gondwana), a series of three long movements: one of Steve Reich’s shimmering soundscapes, a second of hypnotic acoustic drum’n’bass and a third of quietly ecstatic temple music. Their best yet.
Also posted on Gondwana is Music for Film and Theater by Hania Rani. Where the Polish composer’s previous LPs featured rather light muted piano miniatures, these soundtracks (used and unused) for stage and film productions see her expand her sonic palette with strings, electronic drones and microtonal hums. to create something really touching.