Dewey Mahood is all over the place. Not only is he a member of Eternal Tapestry, Gärden Söund (with Barn Owl), Edibles (who released a cassette on Not Not Fun a couple years back), Bloodbiker, and Jackie-O Motherfucker, but since 2008, he’s also released a steady stream of solo music under the name Plankton Wat via labels like Digitalis, Stunned, Sloow Tapes, and DNT. He’s probably outside his Portland home right now, thinking up ways to reconcile what he sees with the psychedelic, cosmic drone improv that constitutes his music. Which is in fact the approach he took for Spirits, his second full-length album set for release May 15 on Thrill Jockey. As he said in a recent interview, “The music is inspired by the Pacific Northwest environment, the mountains and coastline, the weather, sky and clouds, and my closest friends.” With track titles like “Vista,” “Evening Sky,” “Orange Cloud,” and “Islands,” it’s clear that Mahood is looking out rather than in for inspiration.
While the video for “Spirits” showcased the album’s darker moments of electric-guitar weaving and rhythmic meditations, “Fabric of Life” offers respite from the heaviness with an uplifting, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, its melodies flirting with a persistent, warm drone that acts more to bend the harmony than anchor it to any center. The result is mildly uncomfortable yet completely accessible, a harmonic embrace that continually threatens to fold into the darkness. And thankfully, it eventually does, when a more dissonant, sinister drone arises from the shadows and devours it, slower and gentler than you’d expect.
Plankton Wat’s Spirits is out May 15 on Thrill Jockey.