Ethan Rose Oaks

[Holocene; 2009]

Styles: drone, electro-acoustic, ambient
Others: David Daniell, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Mountains, Greg Davis

The genesis of Ethan Rose’s latest album, Oaks, comes from samples he recorded of a 1926 Wurlitzer organ located in the Oaks Park Skating Rink in Portland, Oregon. However, the album isn't simply a compilation of these raw samples, as Rose manipulated the sound sources using digital processing to create ambient drones that unfurl with both beauty and grace. The tones conjured in “On Wheels Rotating,” for example, are bright and melodic, coating the ears like honey.

In fact, the same could be said for all eight tracks that comprise Oaks. The bells and whistles of the Wurlitzer can be plainly heard throughout, albeit covered in what can only be generically described as “warm” electronic processing. By the time that Oaks reaches “Bottom,” its final track, you’d swear that you were listening to one long composition broken into digestible pieces.

Indeed, Oaks isn’t without its faults. The album is a little too pretty, a little too patient. Plus, there are countless artists making music like this now -- just go over to MySpace and look up ambient artists. The problem isn’t that Rose is making bad music; it's that there are so many like-minded releases -- made by musicians who all begin with a basic acoustic sound source, process the sounds through readily available computer programs, and transform them into grainy textured bliss workouts -- that trying to distinguish between them proves frustrating.

This alone makes it hard to hand out anything more than average praise for what has quickly become so commonplace; it's like the crescendo rock or emo of the avant-garde world. Rose has already proven that he can hang with the best of ’em -- his previous albums, Ceiling Songs, Spinning Pieces, and Singing Tower are especially well put together -- but all of his music hinges on the same basic premise. Hopefully the future will see Rose branching out into something more distinctive, if only to avoid getting lost in a sea of clones.

1. On Wheels Rotating
2. Rising Waters
3. Grand Marcher
4. The Floor Released
5. Fortunate
6. Scenes From When
7. Mighty Mighty
8. Bottom

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