Saturday, April 2, 2011

J. Hanson - New Ruined Maps (Collected 2009-2010) [DRAFT]

Here is some top-shelf Northwest collaboration, which you know I am always behind. Seattle's DRAFT is a new synth-centric offshoot of Gift Tapes, and among their first few cassettes DRAFT has chosen to release this album by Portlandic synth master Josh Hanson and his Blacet Modular Synthesizer.
"Sawjig" opens. Meaty analog synth vibes with a hint of folksy (Celtic perhaps) influence underneath. It's a very patient and engaging piece for the first couple minutes, limiting itself to a few components. This changes when a percussive track turns up and the keys get more active indulging in that lightly Celtic feel I mentioned earlier. Hanson transitions quite nicely into "Summer Oscillations" and its minimal but definitely groovy, up-tempo opening. The first section is short lived; evaporating into bird calls from where the next portion takes over. The piece almost seems to be on pause, it stagnates in mellow tones, numbing you almost. And then Hanson drops a series of groovy pitter-pattering synth grooves jolt you out of your slumber. "Astoria" immediately catches your attention with puttering loops and slightly seasick melody. Hanson rightly doesn't stay far from this base. Washes of cymbal-like tones and caffeinated, chattering robots make their presences known, but that methodical, loping melody remains the center. "A Patch of Shade" is a little similar to "Astoria" but major key. It's lively and almost into "feelgood" territory. It makes you wanna nod your head, look brightly to future and all that positive stuff. Nice way to end the side.
Hanson flips the theme as we flip the tape. "Mountain by Lake" is gunnin' to unsettle the listener just a little bit. This recalls the Celtic influence again, although this time it amounts to more of an aliens-composing-for-bagpipes feel. It's a great, extended piece of work that continually expands in a number of directions while still keeping its foot planted in the origins of the piece. "Jets to How-Here" is literally about 15 or 20 seconds of Hanson emulating jets on his modular. "Traffic in the Mission" is another favorite of mine. Hanson really lets himself go in the melody department piling on a number of synth gestures on top of one another and I love it. Like a few of the other tracks on here, Hanson anchors the piece with a fantastic stuttering melodic progression. He doesn't cut it short either which I like; he just lets it flow. "2:35 AM" closes the tape. I can't tell if this has anything to do former Portlander Elliott Smith's "2:35" but no matter. Hanson smartly puts it at the end as it wraps the tape up perfectly. It's not too long and it encapsulates the work that came earlier but it also feels different. There's a longing, mournful feel to it which is something the tape hasn't exhibited until now. It's a little bewitching and, as I said, a perfect ending to this here story.
New Ruined Maps is an excellent half-hour of analog synth architecture. Hanson approaches the instrument more subtly than many of his contemporaries which is refreshing. DRAFT lovingly the produced this release and the pro-dubbed tape sounds warm and fantastic. It's a perfect pairing of artist and label. DRAFT also dropped 150 copies of this so you can actually get your hands on one! It's worth checking for sure.

1 comment:

RTC said...

Nice write-up. I love this tape!

The Boolean Blues CD on Digitalis is also pretty stellar...