Seltzer [CS; Thrill Jockey]

If there’s one thing we can all count on, it’s time. Right? We know that one-Mississippi will always take exactly one-Mississippi long to get through all those syllables. Maybe it’s intentional-irony, then, that music composed for and performed in a very specifically time-centric space (the clock room of the famed Bromo Seltzer Tower in downtown Baltimore) would wind up being the unpredictable exercise in chance and freedom that it is for much of its running length. The duo known as Peals (William Cashion and Bruce Willen, bassists of Future Islands and Double Dagger, respectively), took the opportunity of scoring an art installation by Zoe Friedman called “Time is a Milk Bowl” to grind away at bass frequencies and flick at glittery electronics amid a backdrop of the nervous ticks, tocks, clicks, and cracks of the surrounding space’s machinery. The duo hooked their setup into these mechanisms via contact mics, essentially making their physical space an instrument as part of their performance. You can hear each piece of this sonic puzzle acting somewhat independently on its own internal clock (if you will), while contributing to a larger temporal melting pot swirling with all kinds of different ever-shifting tempos, like a musical version of a Dali painting — different sized time-pieces scattered about an enclosed area, melting. As harmonics softly scrape across one another the frequencies begin to rhythmically beat the eardrums until things smelt down entirely into a more homogeneous mix of beautiful and dense ambience. Things finally snap into place when the piece settles into a familiar feeling 60 beats-per-minute toward the end, the glockenspiel clanging its joyful melody and the piece resolving in a gallant G Major. It all feels very final at this stage - like an affirmation that, no matter what kind of timing trickery may be afoot, ultimately we can still count on that one-Mississippi to keep us on track. Side B follows up on the whole time-theme by collecting disparate home recordings from throughout the collaboration’s history and arranging them into a suite of sorts, traveling through some nice material that reminds me of a more pop-oriented Brokeback, although nothing nearly as fully-formed or engaging as Side A’s intrepid journey through space-time — a nice consolation prize for getting through Seltzer’s main course nonetheless.


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