By the end of “So Little Remains”, a gentle binaural sonic meditation by Alexander Grawoig, you won’t be sure if ten minutes have elapsed or ten hours. The transient instability of both the cyclical acoustic swells and subtly fluctuating visuals induces a sense of relaxation, drawing our awareness towards the now, suspending expectation for future development that drives so much music. Patient and serene, Grawoig’s music is in a constant state of becoming without ever seemingly going anywhere, like perpetual motion of the ebb and flow of the tides. Grawoig weaves various acoustic instruments into an austere tapestry constantly undoing itself, yet never quite vanishing, augmented by a delicate manipulation of spatialized sound that is best appreciated with headphones. A CLOSER LISTEN is honored to premiere “So Little Remains,” an hour-long visualizer accompanying Alexander Grawoig’s latest record.
The name Alexander Grawoig may seem unfamiliar, but it’s just the latest used by one of our favorite artists, formerly known as Alex Gray, whose previous projects include Deep Magic, Heat Wave, DJ Purple Image, D/P/I, and Chance Images, as well as a long tenure in the Sun Araw band. Alex’s work been featured on this site several times over the years, from the very beginning. In 2012 he put together one of my favorite mixes, setting the bar very high for our series early on, while 2013’s Reflections Of Most Forgotten Love is a record I return to regularly. His work as Deep Magic, which tended more towards longform acoustic ambience, remains a standout from the tape label era, but that was always merely one arrow in Alex’s quiver.
As Heat Wave, Purple Image, and especially D/P/I, Alex was one of the most singular voices in the LA beat scene, pursuing mindfucked abstraction as far as he could while often still sampling and referencing pop music in his own twisted way. [See She Was No Tame Thing, a collaboration with Ahnnu that radically reimagines a Drake album, or his flips or “IMAGEREVISIONS” of Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy and Lana Del Rey.] D/P/I conjures a total manic frenzy in contrast to the meditative vibes of Deep Magic. With the self-released “Ad Hocc,” an up to 6-channel work on USB card reimagining field recordings and processing from 2015, and “Composer,” a work of dense rhythmic abstraction released on Shelter Press in 2016, Grey seemed to have taken D/P/I as far as he could go, and soon after retreated from public view. [These and much more can be found on his Bandcamp page.]
But luckily Alex hadn’t quite put music behind him. Now based in CDMX, he started releasing new music again during the early days of the pandemic. A collection of his IMAGEREVISIONS was followed by Begging, consisting of unreleased DJ tracks made between 2014 and 2017. Shortly after came Defy, a collection of defiant new dance oriented tracks hinting at a spirit of resistance that would manifest quite differently in further works which have come with some regularity over the past two years. The old duality between the more meditative acoustic sessions and the digital fuckery of the rhythmic material is still present, though the two intermingle in unexpected ways. For example, the absolutely mental “So Inept”, a 32-minute composition for guitar and live effects processing, was recorded on an Android smartphone while sitting in traffic in Mexico City (the western hemisphere’s greatest and most chaotic megacity). The sounds of urban stressors—car horns, traffic noises, vendors, people yelling—become channeled in a ritual of ecstatic transmogrification. And while “So Little Remains” is aesthetically far removed from the digital manipulations of “So Inept,” there’s a clear philosophical intent that ties them together.
Elements of Grawoig’s previous projects can be excavated from “So Little Remains,” however the newness of the direction taken here is deserving of a clear demarcation. When Alex’s grandfather immigrated to the United States, he changed his surname from Grawoig to Gray, like so many others reinventing himself in order to better assimilate into the fantasy of America. Now living in Mexico, restoring the name Grawoig signals both a rebirth and an honoring of tradition, and suggesting that “So Little Remains” might be his most personal record yet. (Joseph Sannicandro)
Alexander Grawoig’s “So Little Remains” will be available from 1 May 2023.
[pre-order the album OR pre-save on Spotify]