Tony Rolando ~ Absent from the Void

The spring equinox will arrive today at 5:24 p.m. in Asheville, North Carolina, and to mark the occasion, another VISUALS wine will be released along with a new album in the Ceremony of Seasons series.  These pairings have given us a new reason to look forward to every seasonal equinox.

This article is being written during the last week of a mild winter, albeit at the beginning of a late season storm: 50 mph winds, whipping snow and sleet, no reason to go outside but plenty of reason to uncork a cool bottle of wine, in particular “a California grown, direct pressed, native yeast fermented Chardonnay wine” with a slightly modified name: Absent in the Void.  The album is quite different from the first two entries, morphing as it is experienced.  The principle holds true of the wine, which presents a tart foretaste like pineapple, but yields a smooth aftertaste like melon.  The wine changes as it is sipped, just as the music changes while it is played ~ at first ambient, then experimental, then electronic.  A bevy of field recordings surprises the listener like undercurrents of grapefruit or even honeysuckle.  Seagulls cry above the fluted plain.

Spring is here, but it is not here.  The dividing line is difficult to ascertain.  Spring is as much about real spring as it is an imagined spring, and the spring most people imagine is mid-spring, when the flocks have all returned, the flowers have popped above the surface and the cherry blossoms have begun to drop their leaves.  In like manner, the wine tastes like the promise of spring, a promise of warmer breezes and longer days.  Last week in the United States, clocks jumped forward an hour to commemorate Daylight Savings Time and to give whatever farmers may remain an opportunity to spend more time planting and sowing: an event echoed in the LP’s opening track, in which an alarm sounds, a phone rings, a dial tone echoes, a doorbell goes unanswered and a host of clocks (including a cuckoo clock) are amplified, an homage to Pink Floyd’s “Time.”

The liner notes emphasize the conundrum, admitting that “it’s possible to forget what spring feels like” until one is immersed in the “sense of exploding possibility and growing warmth.”  In like manner, it’s possible to forget what a new wine tastes like, even after writing the words, because words struggle to capture an experience ~ the wine is only fully tasted when it is in the mouth.  The wine’s sleight of hand, ending differently than it begins, is so perfectly matched to spring that one wonders how the elixir was created.  Tony Rolando performs a similar feat with his album, which exposes new facets each time it is played, as the color of the LP itself seems to slide from lavender to pink, matching the image of the hellebore.  Sides A and B are also different in tone, as much as mid-March and mid-June, the first half shimmering, the second half sparkling.  In the second half of “Guided by the Absence of Light,” the tempo increases in a manner that imitates the first short sleeve days, then slows again; the season lurches toward summer in a non-linear fashion.

“I don’t really think about it; I don’t think about the past at all,” a narrator intones, his voice captured by vocoder, then looped, as if to mock his statement.  We all think about the past, and how we have come to this point.  We remember springs past, and the feeling of anticipation.  We yearn to exit the winters of our lives, which may or may not coincide with those on the calendar. When we are “Past It All” (a neat play on words), the tempo steadies like a May thermometer.  If spring has not fully sprung, it has at least been captured in bottle and groove.  (Richard Allen)

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