Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dylan Ettinger - Super Ape, Communion

Today is the second day of the second month of the second decade of the second century I have seen in my life and I have just heard the second of Dylan Ettinger's two-tape set, Super Ape and Communion. This is just some stupid coincidence that I noticed, but Ettinger's new opus has made it feel much more symbolic. This pair of humble audio cassettes plays like a meticulous history of an imagination and its inhabitants rather than a mere collection of themed songs.

The first tape of the two, Super Ape, is centered around the legendary Bigfoot. Side A features a single track entitled "Bigfoot Rising", which seems to be the score to countless dark nights of childhood spent exploring the places in the imagination that were avoided as long as the lights stayed on. This piece is perhaps the most astounding example thus far of Ettinger's talent for delivering on a suggestive title while avoiding predictability. His portrait of the rising of the beast gives its existence more credence than any photographic evidence will probably ever do.

Side B also features a single track, The Majesty of Sasquatch, which inverts the terrified wonderment of the first side into a state of reverent awe. The eerie voices of the previous side are transformed into anxious murmurs of flickering shadows awaiting their king at the side of a fire-lit forest clearing. The royal entrance is heralded by ritualistically patient percussion by Clarke Joyner that builds continually without overpowering the song. The organ work on this piece blends tribal sounding riffs with chant-like melodic motifs whose combination allows the melody to bring depth into the experience of the music and its subject with a wise use of familiar musical ideas.

The second tape of the set, Communion, is just as impressive in its vibrant imagery as the first but here Ettinger lifts his eyes to the heavens and their inhabitants. This tape seems to be equally divided between two perspectives, that of humanity and that of the aliens. Side A features two tracks, Abduction and Cosmos, which work together to flesh out a portrait of the terror and wonder that each surface in turn when we think of the arrival of visitors from beyond our humble rock. Musically, Ettinger effectively makes use of familiar synthesizer textures without erring on the side of cheese. Side B seems to follow an alien vessel on its return voyage to the mothership, and conjures images of the freedom of open space giving way to the awe one might feel when reaching the hub of your civilization. After a long journey, you forget how impressive your own species can be.

Overall, this is the strongest work Ettinger has released to date, it is sure to be a significant stepping stone to even more ambitious and enchanting musical ventures.