(Field Hymns, 2014)
Brace yourself. It’s gonna get heady in here in like two seconds. Those are the two seconds between right now and the time you hit play on Traced Landscapes, Black Unicorn’s new cassette on Field Hymns. Only 75 were pressed. As of this writing, FOUR remain. You stupid, stupid consumer. You waited WAY too long. (Thank God for bandcamp.)
Like I said, though, heady, heady vibes transpirin’. Black Unicorn is the solo venture of Curt Brown, who some call the Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Akron, Ohio. (I’d like to meet the people other than me who do that, actually.) He’s also half of the heady, heady Cane Swords, who … hey! Cane Swords also have a new tape out too! That’s pretty rad. It’s called Temple Swords. Why not make it a two-fer? As in, buy both.
But it’s Black Unicorn day today, so let’s stay on track. I keep saying “heady,” and there’s a really good reason for that. Brown’s synth excursions (and let’s face it, you can’t call them anything but excursions) are best experienced with high-tech noise-cancelling headphones, the bigger the better, so if you look like a 1980s helicopter pilot while listening, you’ve got the ideal situation going on. There’s no better way to chill out than with the opening couplet of “Lowland Observatory” and “Cosmonoctambulant” (and no, I will not type that again), trippy interstellar passages that tie new age, ambient, and Kosmische together to rip open a new dimensional rift in the spacetime continuum. To paraphrase well-known galactic traveler/popular rift-ripper J. Spaceman, ladies and gentlemen, we truly are floating in space.
It’s hard to dispute the immaculate Tangerine Dream-iness of “Temporal Immensities,” a slightly more agitated take on what Brown’s doing, but it’s a nice bump in the road that shakes things up before the utter transcendent beauty of “Seafowl in Silhouette,” the track’s title perhaps the perfect visual for the slow crawl that ensues. “Seafowl” exists almost as a still musical painting, and likely would be if not for the fact that it lasts for five minutes and nine seconds. Time actually does pass, and when you’ve realized it has, it’s hard accept that a moment like “Seafowl” could end.
The rest of the album oscillates between the utterly magnificent ambience of Brown’s planetarium-gazing synth sculptures and more kinetic Tangerine Dream–inspired passages. It’s pretty much what the 1970s German experimental musician in me needs on occasion – let’s face it, a lot of occasions. Some artists in this genre suffer by disappearing up their own wormholes, creating cold, uninspired and same-y records with no intention of drawing in the listener. With Traced Landscapes, Brown as Black Unicorn has transcended the norm with a gorgeous, at times glorious, release. Hey Field Hymns, how about pressing another 75? They’re bound to sell!
RIYL: Cane Swords, Emeralds, Cluster