Sound artist Ennio Mazzon‘s full-length follow-up to Xuan is a different beast, one that shimmers like a spaceship instead of clanking like a factory floor. The drama remains intact, although the form has changed: a series of tracks in place of a single extended piece. The tones are more elongated than abrupt on this album, while the distortion levels are pushed to the extreme. Imagine lasers and organs playing in tandem while Gort’s visor is raised. Forget Close Encounters of the Third Kind; this is The Day the Earth Stood Still.
While Pavement Narrows is not a dance album, it does contain its pulses and beats, especially prevalent on “Masu.” The bass moves one to action; one might even approach the dance floor. But then what? Perhaps it’s best to look around, to get one’s bearings, to feel a frisson of fear should a soulless bartender turn a head, exposing illuminated eyes. Disjointed alien beats reemerge on “Salmon Run,” attempting to jut through an increasing bowl of haze. If Cericelcicles was Mazzon’s pop/anti-pop statement, Pavement Narrows is his club/anti-club statement. (There is actually one dance track, but it’s 16 seconds long and contains only 19 beats.) The artist continues to confound expectations through inversion, holding the most accessible parts of his work underwater until their lungs flood and they cease to struggle.
One of the album’s finest moments is one of repetition. Just as one begins to believe that the tracks are connected by sound yet disconnected by structure, the seventh track repeats the burgeoning theme of the first. This rising two-chord motif is an artist’s wink: there is a method to this madness. One of Mazzon’s strengths is that he plants such structure in chaos, and invites his listeners to a process of discernment. There’s a parable here: if one is able to pinpoint patterns in noise, might one be able to sort through the cacophony of one’s own life to find meaning underneath? And if so, might the path to clarity become one of more distortion, not less? As the listener begins to concentrate on the album’s skeleton rather than its sinews, the pavement narrows. (Richard Allen)