Living in Ireland, born in Canada, descended from Ukrainian immigrants ~ Gary Mentanko is a prime example of blurred heritage. With all the talk about protectionism and borders, it’s important to note how indistinct the line really is. It’s appropriate that the cover of this green cassette is a topographical map. Remove the lines, and one will be unable to tell where one province, or even country, ends and another begins.
Roots have always been important to Mentanko, who records as Depatterning and runs the imprint Wist Recs. But this tape is released by a label with a dual home in Spain and the Netherlands, another advantage of a compressed world. The Community Pasture melds family field recordings with musical manipulations, this time blurring the lines between past and present, live and composed. There’s no mistaking the community song of “48th Annual Ukrainian Festival Flood” (the title a bit odd ~ is there a flood at every annual gathering?) or the layered “Hi”s of children in “What Came from Uranium City.” But from this point forth, Mentanko performs a duet with the past, the titles indications of topics, the music evidence of reverence. His ancestors were hard-working, at time on the border of poverty, but they persevered, making a home in the New World. The often disorienting sounds of The Community Pasture shift from melodic to nearly atonal (“Wheat Lifted Her”), mimicking an immigrant’s feeling of disruption and displacement. Eventually it makes a strange, albeit muted sort of sense, like an old photo book without a narrator. Mentanko will adopt this role himself on Side B, an interview with Analogue Chat. This is where we learn that the community pasture is a real location, and that early radio listeners might have been as fascinated by the static as the programming.
“The Power Commision” (sp) is an elegiac drone that imitates the sound of power lines and intimates technological progress. “1932 – Dust” sounds just like its title, with billowing static rustling across the sonic field. The soundscape is as barren as the landscape it reflects, as the dust storms of the 1930s led to crop deterioration and bankruptcy. The album’s timeline will ultimately stretch from 1928 to 1949, ending in the comfortingly titled “End of the Programming Day.” Such sign-offs are now extinct, but they were once part of a new and exciting tapestry. Mentanko mentions that such developments once seemed the stuff of science fiction; in an amusing aside, he mentions playing some of his music for his grandfather, who asked when it was going to start when it was already playing. This is his tribute to his ancestors, whose worldview was different and whose music was concrete rather than abstract. Ironically, the “avant-garde” now keeps their memory alive. (Richard Allen)