Nonparallel in Four Movements is a slow labor of love for Damian Valles, a work of vinyl samples and digital processing that begins as a conceptual mix and ends as a drone. In compiling the sound sources, Valles pored over the Nonesuch catalog of the 60s and 70s, looking for just the right sounds to preserve and re-present. But listener be warned: this is not a cratedigger’s delight. Few sources are identifiable; they are mixed, chopped, and integrated to the point of indiscernibility, like pinches of salt thrown into cake batter. The love that Valles displays for his source material is not that of preservation, but continuation; he presents them in a new way in order to appeal to a new audience.
Clear tones are heard mainly in the margins: a tolling bell at the end of the first movement, guitar strumming at the start of the second, a recurrent crackle throughout. It’s somewhat strange to hear vinyl dust amplified in compressed form, but this choice reflects the blended format. While the overall effect is akin to a slowly-moving fog, a few moments rise above the morass. Five minutes into the second movement, dark strings emerge; small as the snippets may be, their presence is clearly felt. 3:37 into the third movement, the effect is repeated with slightly longer samples, and the album delves into melody for a spell. Two minutes later, a harsher, saw-like drone emerges, lending the album its loudest moment. This third movement, the album’s busiest and best, also contains what sounds like backward masking, which recalls the lawsuits over hidden vinyl messages: a political reaction to art that revealed more about the climate than the construction.
Solid sound is omnipotent here; Nonparallel has little room for silence. A wider range of dynamic contrast might have helped listeners to appreciate the Nonesuch recordings for what they were then, in addition to how they can be reappropriated today. There’s a fine line between borrowing and homage, and one’s familiarity with and love for the original material will likely determine one’s appreciation for this act of sonic reclamation. (Richard Allen)