Morgan Packard Airships Fill the Sky / Unsimulatable [DVD]

[Anticipate; 2007]

Styles: electronic, ambient, minimal
Others: Jan Jelinek, Jetone, Ezekiel Honig, Gas

Claiming some of the tracks from Early Morning Migration (a 2005 disc containing his work alongside and not in collaboration with that of Ezekiel Honig), Airships Fill the Sky is Morgan Packard’s first solo full-length album. A gorgeous adventure through sublime electronic textures and found sounds, the album often marries swathes of sound to a repetitive beat, not unlike Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project or Tim Hecker’s previous work as Jetone. The pieces that aren’t as rhythmic have a tendency to feel untethered, as if floating off into the distance, but Airships Fill the Sky is a focused, haunting work that rewards repeat visits and patience.

The title track begins with an accordion surrounded by wisps of white noise, giving way to minimal thumps and metallic clanking, while “I Think I” features an odd vocal sample that sounds like a woman saying “bees” over what might as well be ping pong noises and marbles in a blender. When “Mink Hills” starts out with a similar sound palette, you wonder if Packard has run out of ideas, until he introduces a simple violin motif at the 1:30 mark, adding the necessary gravitas to propel the track skyward (no pun intended). On “A Place Worth Keeping Part 2” and “Kelp Sway,” he gives the impression that the underlying melody is slowly disintegrating, another tactic reminiscent of Tim Hecker’s work. Packard then flips the switch on the final tracks, “Waterbugs” and “They Will Rise Forever,” where instead the melodies remain intact while the beat gives way or, in the case of the latter, gradually sputters out.

Airships Fill the Sky comes packaged with the Unsimulatable DVD, which features Packard’s music accompanied by Joshue Ott’s superDraw sketches, as well as a bonus portion featuring living sculptures made using the software. Ott's drawings, which are manipulated for the sake of abstraction and exaggeration, actually look like advanced screensaver images -- and I mean that as a compliment. Interestingly, Packard's soundtrack to these drawings is almost entirely composed of different material than on the CD. It's a vast undertaking for a first effort, but the DVD helps give additional life to an already immaculate recording.

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