(Inner Islands, 2016)
There’s a brand familiarity with Inner Islands that’s easy to recognize: all music released by the label has the ability to transport you to the center of your own being for maximum personal reflection. There are many ways to do this, and on his previous release as Channelers, Essex, label head and awesome dude Sean Conrad explored, I paraphrase, neutral spaces where one could nurture their physicality. Water informed these spaces as a powerful symbol, and Conrad’s synthesizer drones matched his subject masterfully. Now, on Arden Tapes, he takes an entirely different stylistic approach, but one that aligns with his and the label’s vision all the same.
Like Scott Weiland in his infamous rocking chair belting “Big Empty” from MTV’s Unplugged studio, Conrad presents a stripped-down Channelers affair on his latest jawn. Gone are the billowing synthesizers and swirling atmospheres, replaced with meditative acoustic guitar and piano passages. Barely an effects pedal makes an appearance – any semblance of chorus or delay may simply be the result of recording space making its presence felt. It’s a different look … er, sound, for Channelers, but it operates in the same territory. Gentle, contemplative, interior sonic experiments are what Conrad’s known for, and, with this latest opus he’s assured us that his music remains fully focused on the inner workings of the human consciousness. And while he’s quite adept at stretching passages to prog lengths, with Arden Tapes Conrad presents songs “of the moment,” shorter, more bite-sized tracks than we may be used to. But taken as a whole, the cassette’s fifteen pieces still scratch that long-form itch, creating a headspace to get lost in. “Big Empty”? Try big full, if you know what I’m saying. … I’ll, uh, show myself out.