Amidst drone culture, the word “prolific” has little meaning. With one-take improvisations the norm and cassette labels once again blossoming, releasing five-plus albums per year is far from uncommon for such musicians. So when I say that Sean McCann releases music at a Mozart-like pace, I realize that much impact is lost. But what might surprise is both how consistently excellent McCann’s music is and how he manages to improve with each release.
While Sean’s orchestration has varied from banjo and viola to synthesizer throughout his catalog, what sets his newest material apart, especially The Capital, is how meticulously crafted the arrangements are. Although much of McCann’s work is composed, the density of The Capital is both baffling and refreshing for someone even nominally associated with a style of music that features hasty improvisations.
Comprising six tracks, The Capital presents two distinct themes separated by the sides of the LP. The A-side is split into four movements, each focusing on, if not entirely derived of, electronic components. Each track is laden with an unbridled exuberance, barely capable of containing its elation, often bubbling over into an explosion of synthesized warmth. The opener “Aerial Sapphire Show” slowly builds during the course of seven minutes into an overwhelming wave of thick, colorful drones. With each passing second of “Aerial Sapphire Show,” the tethers that bind McCann’s enthusiasm slowly loosen, finally unbuckling into a joyful sound near the track’s conclusion. Similarly, the low-key “Unfolding Angels” is succeeded by “Star Change’s” outcry of eager voices, a synthetic choir — a trembling soprano atop a rich, tonal sea of altos.
Maintaining many of the constructs of the first side, side B introduces McCann’s dual acoustic self. An unassuming plucked banjo commences things on “This Was Nearly Mine.” A viola, violin, piano, electric guitar, and synthesizer layer with the introductory instrument, bearing a harmonious cohabitation of the organic and inorganic. Near the track’s conclusion, this synthesis morphs into a shimmering drone awash an arpeggiated piano. The side’s other number, “Swoon,” is more subdued though still equally as compelling. The vocal simulations return, this time via acoustic string instruments. Such voice-like manifestations for these instruments are commonplace in classical music, yet their presence on The Capital is unexpected and remarkably personifying.
While much of drone isn’t inhuman per se, McCann’s vivre found in The Capital makes most music sound sterile by comparison. The record’s humanity and joy — I’m guessing McCann’s own — is projective and uplifting. Not just an excellent record, The Capital is a testament to the euphoria of existence.