Music and alcohol are one of life’s Perfect Pairings, but seldom are artists and beverage specialists as perfectly in alignment as they are here. Working through the audio imprint Ceremony of Seasons, Asheville, North Carolina’s Ross Gentry has teamed with Asheville’s VISUALS Wine to produce the first entry in the Ritual of Senses Wine Club. September is specifically designed to match Sink Into Seclusion, described as “a Mendocino grown, amphora aged, skin contact Sauvignon Blanc wine,” the follow-up to last year’s Sink Into Solitude Sauvignon Blanc, just as September is the follow-up to Gentry’s Absence Recorded on Longform Editions.
An additional bonus is the seasonal aspect of the series. The wine and music are released today at the seasonal equinox. To listen to an album called September while drinking the wine is like seeing all of the planets align. Sink Into Seclusion (yes, I am drinking and writing) is smooth and aromatic, offering hints of apple and peach. The wine yields just the right amount of sweetness, pairs well with pecans, and tastes best slightly chilled. At first the name sounds lonely, but the equinox is a time of contemplation, as when one realizes summer, at least in name, is over. Today holds a top note of fragility, chased by an undercurrent of cyclical awareness.
Gentry honors the wine with related titles. The five tracks mingle to form a single piece, starting with “alone in silence,” a perfect match for Sink Into Seclusion. “a shallow decade” summarizes a plethora of problems, too many to name, heavy on the hearts of humanity. “the bottom of a well” appears in the album’s direct center, the nadir of experience. “susurration” is a whispering or murmuring. Finally “unending autumn,” a title whose interpretation will vary from reader to reader; to some, the title may signal an uninterrupted decline, to others an extended awe.
September is received with varied emotions. The month signals a return to work and school, an early selection of holidays, the end of vacations, a nip in the air ~ even in Asheville, where the daytime temperature is still in the 80s but the nighttime plunges to the 50s. As the album begins, Gentry’s piano may be heard as requiem or warning. But the equinox also brings the promise of new pleasures: autumn leaves, apple cider, hayrides, pumpkin picking, farm festivals, layered clothes. In Gentry’s music, one may detect hints of melancholy, resignation, surrender and even acceptance (but not apples). As the percussion appears, it seems nearly ritualistic, a farewell to Persephone, mourning tinged with regret. Yet by “susurrations,” the chords seem to be brighter, the tempo quicker, the patterns fuller, like already-existing colors exposed as the green recedes. “an unending autumn” begins with organ tones, a church-like timbre, an indication of comfort, should one choose to accept it.
When one tries a new wine, one searches for words to describe its nuances. After the initial period of assessment, when deciding whether to return to the wine, one concentrates on the way the wine makes one feel.. The same principle holds true for albums. Once one has investigated the titles and timbres, and contemplates spinning the record again, one considers how the music makes one feel: in this case, wistful, appreciative, calm, in line with the time of year.
We’re already looking forward to the next installment. We think we know what winter sounds like; but what does winter taste like? With any luck, we’ll know soon. Tim Gormley (the owner of Ceremony of Seasons and co-owner of VISUALS wine) has provided a new reason to look forward to every equinox. (Richard Allen)