Saturday, August 16, 2008

Century Plants - Inversions (Ikuisuus CD-R)

I've spoken much of Albany duet Century Plants on this here blog, how they're consistently one of the most exciting live acts in the area and they continue to evolve their sound to include an ever expanding array of sonic possibilities. It is the intimacy of only two people, in this case Eric Hardiman and Ray Hare, that allows for such growth and intricacy, making the format perhaps the defining one of this year so far. Whatever that means.

Anyway, I ran into Eric at the No More Bush Tour and he gifted me the latest on his own label, Tape Drift, as well as this, the Plants' latest on Finland's legendary Ikuisuus label. Having already released so many great artists--Ashtray Navigations, Family Underground, My Cat is an Alien, Uton, Ben Reynolds, Quetzolcoatl, etc.--the label is killer, and of course they did a great job with this material as well.

The album consists of four tracks varying from about five to over fifteen minutes. "Heavy Water" opens the set in brooding fashion, wading in with a patience and fuzzed out delicacy not easily attained. The whole thing churns along, proving the title to be an apt one as guitar lines are added and subtracted and added again. It all sounds more or less like the soundtrack to some avant-garde flick, say Bruce Conner or something. Very vast and organic, with no clear direction at all, opting to just be rather than grow.

The title track which follows is similarly spacious and mellow, much more so than the majority of the Plants' work that I've heard. In fact, the whole album is the most accessible from them since Fingers. "Inversions" opens with the reverberating strums of guitar as walls of light dabble in the background, likely Ray Hare's vocal or guitar process work I'd guess. Extremely cautiously the pairing turns in a celestial creeper, soft and lulling like some shapeshifter luring you towards its jaws. You know how beautiful all of those glowing deep sea creatures are, sputtering about? Well sometimes those neon lights reveal their location and they get eaten.

"Frozen Generation" is the longest and most brutalizing track on the album, though even it is hardly as crushing as I've heard them. It's simply a bit more industrial and mechanic sounding as heavy guitar wails are repositioned via machine-like grinds and churning tracts leading towards the great white emptiness. The vocal moans of Hare only add to the despairing atmosphere as the thing continues to build into a mini orchestration all its own, funneling you downward with hopeless ease.

The last track, "Shift," is unlike anything I've heard from the duo yet. After the soul-destruction absorbed on "Frozen Generation," "Shift" sounds like a folk-diddy just this side of Doc Watson. Ok, not really. But it is quite catchy and relaxing in its own way, the front guitar playing the melodic motif over and over as the lower guitar behind adds a dark textural element. It's a smaller scope than the others, a real jam session in a way, but a more than fitting end to the album as it too, through its repetition and the persistence of its performers, suggests a quality of endlessness before the silence encroaches. It's a killer album, definitely one of the best (and mellowest) I've heard from the duo, and likely still available from both the label and Flipped Out. Seeketh of it.

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