The key track on last year’s Jasper TX album, The Black Sun Transmissions, was the Aaron Martin collaboration, “Weight of Days”. Martin’s cello filled a void in Dag Rosenqvist‘s sonic world, while Rosenqvist’s electronics added grit to Martin’s clean classical vision. Fans wished for more interaction, and the artists agreed. The result is Woven Tide, an album of deep feeling and grace. It’s a natural heir to last year’s top collaborative effort, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and it shares a similar tone: melancholic, yet ultimately uplifting. The closest companions in each artist’s discography are Jasper TX’s Singing Stones (especially “They’ve Flown Away and Left Us Here”) and Aaron Martin’s Chautauqua (referenced by the wordless vox in “Color Loss”). If pain is essential on the path to joy, then Woven Tide has gotten it right.
Most of the tracks feature deceptively simple yet devastatingly effective crescendoes. It’s amazing what one can do with a setup of piano, cello, guitar and electronics. Even in a brief piece like “Sitting in a Roofless Room”, subtle emotions run deep. The guitars spread a quiet mat for the piano to tread upon; the cello enters a step behind; they turn, recognize each other, and embrace. The volume rises as they are blanketed by a static swirl. And then – detachment. The piano limps off like a forgotten friend, while the cello stays behind to mourn. This pattern of approach and retreat recurs throughout Woven Tide, producing a downcast gravity. When the electronics fade from “Color Loss”, the effect is sorrowful, but when additional strings drop by, the effect is sadder still. The soul longs for relief, and at the same time, hopes that relief will never come, so articulate is the anguish, so seemingly impossible to recapture.
The album’s longest tracks set off in a more abstract direction. The hesitant pauses and brass timbres of “Like Shadows in an Empty Cathedral” call to mind Johann Johannsson’s The Miners’ Hymns, while the crackling drones of “A Season in Waters” spark atonal disruptions. This latter choice is the album’s only misstep, as the pulsating, off-the-beat static sounds like the warning hisses of a defective disc; a growing wall of sound would have been more appropriate. All is forgiven by the album’s coda, a bright, even accessible piece anchored by the strumming of an acoustic guitar. The digital edition also features Danny Saul’s remix of early album highlight “Pools of Rust” – longer and more bell-inflected, with piano excised, a highlight in its own right.
The key to the future success of any genre is a willingness to adopt and embrace the winning features of others. By blending the fields of ambient, drone and modern composition, Woven Tide embraces its title and presents itself as a brand new creation. (Richard Allen)
Pools of Rust – Danny Saul Remix