If an album has a striking cover, the track titles are clever, the backstory is memorable and the first video is intriguing, does it guarantee a review? Not always; the music must appeal as well. Thankfully, in this case it does, and there is a solid somethingness to this quiet adventure.
Conrad Praetzel has been recording for over twenty years as Clothesline Revival, yet has never performed a single concert. Now appearing under his own name, he’s slightly modified his sound from Roots Americana to ambience, but – pardon the pun – his roots continue to show. Fans will encounter not a curve ball, only a curve. While Adventures in Somethingness represents a shift in timbre, the artist’s identity is not subsumed.
The striking video combines abstract images from four of Len Lye’s animated films, stretching from 1935-53. The colors pop, the shapes dance, the visuals vibrate and flow. At the one-minute mark, “Rescued By The Nano Spirits” develops a pulse, connecting the work to Clothesline Revival’s later output. The screen mesmerizes; the music hypnotizes. The trancelike state is only broken as one attempts to identify the shapes. Waffle! Cloud! Pepsi! The effect is reminiscent of classic chill-out rooms. Destination: Bliss.
“Rescued By The Nano Spirits” sits in the center of the album, and Praetzel builds to it and recedes from it. The title track introduces a shuffle beat that sounds like backward masking. Effects pedals and additional processing mask the notes, emphasizing the chords: an effect continued in the cover art, where gradations are more important than hues. In “Disengrateful,” voices fall into the vat as well. The album’s first half highlight turns out to be one of its shortest tracks. “Sanctuary” offers two minutes of peace, shorter than a tea break but perfect for a prayer. The artist plays to his strengths, allowing his Americana to peek through an opaque curtain of sound.
The watery “Absence of Nothing” provides the other bracket, the oxymoron related to the album title. Once one enters this peaceful realm, all worries subside. Soon the tempo of “Nano Spirits” seems a distant memory, Praetzel serenading the listener with somnambulant guitar, eschewing any dance save for the sway. Static arrives in “Hidden Compass” like precipitation, a welcome white noise. There is heft to this ambience, like the rain in a cloud, something that appears to be nothing until it is felt. (Richard Allen)