Thursday, November 8, 2007

Warmth – Warmth [Arbor]

Warmth is a project I’ve been a little on the fence about. I’ve heard a handful of releases and while I found them intriguing none of them really stuck. Until now that is. Warmth is an LP reissue/remixed/edited version of a self-titled(?) CD-r on the now deceased X Died Enroute Y label. The CD-r featured a rare duo formation, consisting of Warmth main man Steev Thompson and Branden Diven of Quilts and a bunch of other cool things. So anyhow, let’s get this review poppin’
Side A starts out quietly with a submerged glistening something. There is a rhythmic crackle that I can’t figure out if it’s part of the music or a skuf on the LP. Intentional or not, it adds a steady forward movement that works out real nicely. That submerged glistening synth or whatever it is rises in volume and drops. The volume swelling and tapering becomes a motif throughout the side. What sounds like a heavily reverbed guitar comes in with other kinds of looped electronics and subsides. A lush synth swell emerges for maybe fifteen seconds and abruptly fades. Then the guitar comes back for a moment and then the synth with a more fleshed out, ethereal, echoing ice caverns bit which wanes revealing a gusty whining wind type sound. After comes one of my favorite parts a brief bit of thick, almost shuffling looped two note synth melody. Low in the mix, there is something that sounds like a faraway church choir, while static white noise and mild mannered feedback dance and crawl over top. The piece is incredibly hard to pin down. Every time a beautiful loop or melody materializes it slinks away almost immediately, leaving the quiet base warble. There is a crescendo at the end which is really fantastic, and much more extended than any other the other parts. It builds into a gorgeous cacophony, ultimately receding back into the ether while a lone guitar feeds back and a synth wobbles on its last legs until the end groove. The piece is strangely composed, the continuous rising and falling of a slew of sonic fragments. It reminds me a bit of those old haunted house rides; not in the sense that its “scary” or “ghoulish”, but rather that you are taken on a ride through a bunch of short-lived events that together assemble a unified experience, but without direct transition between them. Sometimes fragmentation or holding onto an idea too briefly before moving on can be frustrating to listen to. Somehow though, Warmth makes it compelling. Maybe it’s because you want keep revisiting it and take the ride again or perhaps it’s just because the fragments all sound so good. It’s probably both and more. A very cool side.
The B side has a rhythmic crackle as well, which makes me wonder if it’s intentional or if my stylus is messed up (hope not). It begins with a slow burning drone as some Medroxy Progesterone Acetate-esque rustling white noise enters. The piece moves in a style not unlike the first side, but a bit more subtly. There is a strange alien transmission halfway through, though most of the time the track glides along on glacial tones. That is until some shrieking echoing guitar or synth comes roaring onto the scene. The placid atmosphere is shattered by a downpour of exploding feedback which sticks around for a bit until fading into looped organ tones. Which, of course, fade too, as swirling jet streams and moaning guitar swells take the track to its final conclusion. As mentioned, the piece works in a similar way as the first but a bit sparser and more subtly, I prefer the first I think but Side B is a cool little number in itself. One note though, my bass speaker is pretty much to the point of coughing up blood, so I can’t discern much of the low end business that’s going on, it sounds like it would be pretty cool though if I could hear it.
So Warmth remains as enigmatic as ever. This is a really great release and makes me want to hear more of/revisit their other stuff. I’ve yet to come across anything quite like the project, which, at the very least, makes it worth delving deeper into their discography. I say this every time but the LP comes packaged in Arbor’s trademark classy and capable aesthetic, with a printed/screen-printed cover by Roy Tatum and Mike Pollard and also a 8.5x11 insert by Steev. The crowning achievement/sweetness/whatever is the cool citrus-y creamsicle vinyl and a-shade-darker-than-lime green screen-printed labels. It’s a total package and still available from Arbor but limited to 300, so get it already.

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