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Self Portrait
Georgia [4:40]
The Dream I Float Away [6:05]
Self Portrait [3:56]
Falling Asleep In The Streets [7:19]
Part Two [3:58]
Stairwell [2:47]
Paroxysm [4:10]
Drowning [5:37]
Grant Cutler (piano, synthesizers), Jef Sundquist, Chris Campbell (organs),
Michelle Kinney, Jacqueline Ultan (cello), Sara Pajunen (violin),
Michael Lewis (saxophone), Aby Wolf (vocals)
rec. Hideaway Studios, Minneapolis MN and Brooklyn, NY, dates not given.
INNOVA 961 [38:33]

If I was still working in a record shop and asked for something on the lines of Brian Eno’s ambient recordings then this might be the sort of album I would suggest. This of course does a certain disservice to Grant Cutler’s creative originality, but sometimes you just have to start with a point of reference and move on from there.

These are all slow and atmospheric tracks, though by no means lacking in eventfulness and surprise. Instruments rarely if ever appear as themselves, often sounding through veils of some kind of electronic transformation, at times in counterpoint with themselves as is the violin in Stairwell and the cellos of Drowning, or manipulated beyond recognition to create something entirely new. There is an intimate, chamber-music feel to the album as a whole, though the most dramatic musical gestures have symphonic weight. Where the sonic undertow of Georgia ultimately rises to create something ecstatic is an example of this.

While there is no information with the actual CD the Innova website describes how Cutler “recorded artists improvising to delayed recordings of themselves, a kind of sonic déja vu where memory and experience blend together in an evolving present. Slowly evolving colors wash over the listener; as though placing a mic in front of a fresh Rothko.”

Cutler is not afraid of using ‘bad’ overload distortion to dirty his sound and prevent it becoming too sweet and sentimental: indeed, this is an effective way of heightening tension. Aside from the detail and effort put into creating remarkable swathes of intriguing and often inspiring sound, the listener is drawn in by clear arcs of structure and design. Even where there is an extended development in longer of tracks such as Falling Asleep In The Streets, we’re kept on our toes by constant change and shifting, indeed singing sands. Part Two is by contrast one of the most eventful tracks here, with a drifting organ sent into the distance, only to return with shock and disruption.

This is a fine album and one to have to hand when seeking to open up your own poetic inner spaces.

Dominy Clements



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