(Eilean Records, 2014)
I’m reminded of the opening to Boredoms’ classic Super Ae, “Super You,” where the band, in typical trend-bucking fashion, took their recording of straight guitar rock (actually, more akin to a doomier strain of metal than anything in this instance) and manipulated it to sound like it was a cassette played through a boombox, periodically pressing the fast-forward button simultaneously with play. Maybe that’s actually what they did in the studio, but the results were wildly unpredictable, and over the song’s almost eight-minute length, they turned the whole experience into a transcendent and monolithic meditation – completely against the odds I had stacked against it. See, it was my introduction to that kind of chaos, and I grew to love it with an almost uncontrollable glee.
I’m not saying HolyKindOf has any aesthetic resemblance to Boredoms really, but Stay/Sea, the debut of cellist/experimental composer J. Bryan Parks, begins with the similar strains of cassette tweakage, found sounds propelled by the FF and RW buttons (maybe just FF, impossible to tell) and treated into incomprehensibility. But instead of blasts of white-hot guitar and rolled drums, Parks adds a lightly resolving keyboard progression and droning cello, stretching out the tones and allowing them to cloud the chaos of the tape, creating a gauzy dichotomy, a pull between two opposite charges that allows the listener to really grapple with the piece, even though it stretches to well over twelve minutes. (Maybe there’s a Boredoms comparison somewhere in here after all.) And hey – it’s called “Ceremonial Magnet (Part I)” – isn’t that pretty much how I just described the music? Parks may be on to something here with his titling…
(Oh, and before I get any further, full disclosure – I work with Parks’s mom.)
Stay/Sea album preview:
Parks is a part owner of Rubber City Noise, the Akron, Ohio, experimental music label/venue/gallery/studio/collective, whose catalog boasts releases from Black Unicorn (which we reviewed!) and Cane Swords, Adderall Canyonly, Brad Rose’s The North Sea, and Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Theodore Logan’s Wyld Stallyns, to name a few. (Oh, Ben Osborne and Curt Brown’s Wyld Stallyns – I feel so foolish.) As such, he’s surrounded himself with likeminded musicians whose penchant for far-out compositional tactics veer their output almost constantly into the “wildly interesting” category. Check out Parks’s Soundcloud for non-Stay/Sea pieces, in particular the amazing “Stress/Violin” performed with assistance from Flora Nevarez and Black Unicorn.
The crackle of a needle on vinyl acts as a bridge between “Ceremonial Magnet” and “Nocturne; in S Major” (and let me just say, when you make up your own keys, you’re just asking for trouble, disregarding the natural order of things like that). (Er, kidding…) “Nocturne” is a steady piece, a, er, nocturnal meditation utilizing processed found sound which is undercut by cello around the four-minute mark, hypnotizing as it crawls river-slow under a bright moon.
More needles, more crackles, then “Requiem, Et Cetera,” the track’s title again evoking its tone and feel. And if you guessed gut-wrenching processed cello was the tone and feel of the HolyKindOf requiem experience, you’d be right on. Like an exegesis on mourning, “Requiem, Et Cetera” finds Parks exploring layers upon layers of complex emotion, its waves crushing in intensity, yet allowing the faintest hopeful light in. It’s heady stuff, and worth a noise-canceling-headphone trip.
Stay/Sea is a remarkable debut for HolyKindOf, and one that slides right into the niche Parks and his Ohio peers have carved for themselves. It’s an exciting scene, and the attention to detail in composition is top notch. And with “Ceremonial Magnet,” I’ve got a new go-to composition when I’m craving both experimental soundscapes and beautiful resolution. I’m not really sure Boredoms can do that second part.
RIYL: Attenuated, Good Willsmith, Mike Shiflet