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Carpe Sonum does a valuable service by reissuing this mesmerizing 2005 second LP by this Colorado electronic/ambient trio, previously a vinyl-only release on the group’s Obliq label. Though I was held spellbound by the crackling sound collages of their 2001 debut Rural Sessions, calling it “melodic, expansive, and attractive” in issue 48, Bahian makes it feel like baby steps. It’s clear that Dave Alexander, Jeff Holland, and Nathan Jantz had exponentially honed their craft in the four years leading up to Bahian, enlarging their repertoire of sounds by a hundredfold, and melding them all together through inventive instrumentation and imagination in ways few others could pull off. Each one of these ten compositions – the reissue adds two tracks not on the original album – is distinct from the others, yet the album maintains a smooth and coherent flow. The spacious, boundless synths on the stately “El Sid” resemble a majestic choir of angels cascading from the heavens, as chiming, delicately massaged guitars and wheezy, throbbing beats float and flutter in the foreground. The soothing “Departure” feels like you’re being engulfed by the most pacifying, cleansing ocean breeze imaginable, while sunken, bubbling keyboards and ear-tickling static tones gently intertwine. And on the unusual “Ansico,” dreamlike, Hawaiian-flavored guitar chords, evoking “Walk on the Wild Side,” are stretched and bent into odd, contorted shapes, while murky, submerged bass belches and clattering, flickering synth noises (one of which sounds like a creaky clothespin) form an entrancing, head-bobbing rhythm.
On the more percussive-based title track, skittish, knocking rhythms are interspersed with rhythmic effects that resemble ricocheting ping-pong balls, sand-filled shakers, lightly tapped bottles, and, strangely, an amplified zipper. The harsher “Pucuna” hits even harder, overwhelming you with chaotic, vigorous tribal drum beats that dart from every direction, interjected by fritzing electromagnetic waves and abnormal, throaty, robotic grunts. Near the end, the voluminous, stratospheric “Arrival” makes you feel like you’re floating weightless through the Milky Way, as oscillating beats and twinkling keyboards dance and drift by. Finally, the claustrophobic, nightmarish closer “Rotation” mimics the feeling of hurtling through an immense black hole, or spinning inside a “rotating” centrifuge, as thunderous, echoing dins of noise close in.
I could go into similar detail describing the remaining four tracks (including the mollifying “Underdub,” with its sampled Outer Limits intro), but you get the picture. Bahian is one of those albums you’ll want to listen to with all the lights off, on a good, audiophile-approved hi-fi system, for maximum effect. But even on a pair of cheap earbuds, you’ll appreciate its stress-reducing, inner peace-producing sonic delights. (carpesonum.com, carpesonum.bandcamp.com)
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