On two consecutive nights, I fell asleep with The Bird and the Giant on my mind. I had two vivid dreams:
1) My thumb was, for whatever reason, torn open, a bit decayed and reasonably cavernous. While grimacing at the sight, I was warned by someone in my kitchen, "Do not touch plants because they might take root inside your hand". Unfortunately, I had just smeared some sort of green mulch (resembling Chia seeds or pesto, something I ate that previous evening) and noticed a miniature forest growing inside the cracks of my digit. Squinting, I could see the tiny trunks and individual pine needles with as much detail as the best ship in a bottle or modeled landscape in an obsessive toy train collector's track.
2) My arm had itched all day. When I rolled up my sleeve, I touched the source of my discomfort: a bump just above my elbow. With microscopic eyes (I had bionic vision, like the Googlemaps zoom), I noticed that the pore on the spot was slightly agape. As I stared, a white mouse pokes his head out of the hole, and then darts back in. I did the equivalent of faint by waking up.
I credit these visions to my first impression of percussionist Erik Carlsson's work: as the polyrhythmic overdubs of metallic flicks, submerged gong rumbles, pings and thuds of the first piece ("Could Be Emotional") expand and contract, the aesthetic presents itself as the cogs, pins, rollers and whatever else makes a pocket watch tick — though one whose steady pulse has fallen off track. These are meager sounds are barely embellished and corralled by someone from the Cage school where time dictates direction; Carlsson spaces frequencies and attacks in a way that demands the listener pay attention to each amoebic blip rather than a potential frame they support. On "Heavy Rest", he favors a similar palette that leaves even more silence between his muted bells, never expedient to get anywhere beyond the present. The shimmering "Hope, Perhaps Feelings" replaces the dampened metals with a duet of freely ringing bowed cymbal and the aforementioned low-pitched gong wash. By "The Dead Spirit", the intent is deconstruction. Here, Carlsson utilizes the flavors of Gamelan without any of the idiosyncrasy of the culture / genre, simply flowing until the last note. The penultimate work revels in a restrained feedback, a melodic scream swimming below the surface, while the culminating title track gathers elements at their atomic level, literally purging them in a continuous breathy, scraped exhale.
Were my Carlsson-inspired imaginings simple holiday food-inspired hallucinations or something the artist put into my ether? Voting for the latter, I believe The Bird and the Giant is a terrific demonstration of a sonic world between the cracks of the traditional elements of music and unplanned natural events. Warmth and sterility oddly meet in unexpected intrigue.
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