Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fossils From the Sun – Somebody’s Gotta Lose [Abandon Ship]/Rambutan – Fallen Smoke [Abandon Ship]

This pair of 3inch CD-rs, from the Abandon Ship label, documents two solo efforts from the members of the Albany guitar duo Century Plants. Eric Hardiman (also of the Tape Drift label and Burnt Hills) is Rambutan and Ray Hare (also of Burnt Hills) is Fossils From the Sun.
Going by catalog number, I’ll start with Fossils From the Sun. Somebody’s Gotta Lose features some thick guitar playing. I don’t know if there are loops here or what (doesn’t necessarily sound like it) but Hare has a really expansive, robust fuzztone at his disposal here. And he uses it real well. A few minutes in there are some multi-tracked and/or looped layers of guitar. I like the sound Hare has created here where it feels pretty whole and unified but all the while he remains very active on his axe. He seems to have melodies going in every register; I particularly like the evocative, gliding tones he creates higher up on the neck—shimmering isn’t the right word, but I’d say they sound full of electricity. Later, Hare introduces some percussive vocal type sounds. Not beat boxing, just so we’re clear. Though that sure woulda thrown me for a loop. The vocals add an interesting, stammering dimension to the heavy sustain of the guitar. Roughly halfway through, the track takes a sharp left turn. The guitar drops out (vocals too), leaving a pulsing, crusty feedback loop. It seems like there are a number short repeating loops here all offset a little making for strange cross-pollinated rhythms. Vocal fragments and effect manipulation is introduced a bit later. It’s interesting that the project is called Fossils From the Sun, cause this moment reminds me vaguely of a milder hypno-junk noise session by Canada’s Fossils. It’s a head scratching but successful changeup going from full on fuzz riffs and drones to a freaky bit of basement squalor.
The Rambutan disc is called Fallen Smoke which I’m pretty sure doesn’t make any sense in physical contexts but it seems pretty spot on here. Hardiman offers no help as to what he was playing during this live performance so I’m gonna guess guitar, vocals and some other gadgets for right now. With the first disc I could see the Century Plants resemblance pretty easily; the opening of this took me a moment to place though. In a way, this sounds like the point when one of the Century Plants guitarists goes off and freaks out, but isolated and terribly more mysterious. There’s a few relatively steady drones here, which a number of strange percussive guitar(?) sounds encircle. It may be the live setting, but the piece as a very spacious, foggy sound—almost like you’d hear it creeping in the window or something. It slowly gathers steam, pushing the ethereal mist to all corners. Occasionally you can barely hear a short loop of guitar which is a nice touch. An invisible rhythmic push springs up around halfway through and man, the piece just starts to rule. Very subtly there is a spreading out of sound where a bunch more loops are piled on making for a really multi-dimensional drone. Like the FFTS disc, there’s a big left turn here. Everything drops out and, over a single droning loop, an acoustic instrument of some sort (dulcimer? mandolin? guitar?) is strummed. Unfortunately, this section is marred by a really transparent phaser pedal or something akin to that. The heavy use of that effect takes me out of the track, which is too bad cause I like what Hardiman is doing otherwise (going to town on whatever he’s playing). I guess it just doesn’t work for me in the context that he set out in the first 15 minutes. Despite my uneasy feelings towards the last bit, the first 3/4s are pretty phenomenal.
Both are cool discs, that in tandem may work as a little decoder ring to figure out who’s doing what in all those C-plantz jams. It was cool to see that these discs didn’t sound like “half of Century Plants” as duos sometime sound when they go solo. Both Hardiman and Hare brought something interesting to the table here. Both are still available, but each is only in an edition of 50. Hit up Abandon Ship for one (or two).

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