(2010, Roll Over Rover)
RIYL = Sean McCann, Johann Johannsson, Aaron Martin
There is a pretty common misconception out there, I think, that ambient or drone-based music operates best in the background, or worse, is meant for the background. Nothing could be further from the truth. It may be counterintuitive, but it remains true that slow-moving, repetitive, often meditative tones require much closer attention from a listener than does pop music, rock n’ roll, hip-hop – just about any other genre. I think that the misunderstanding comes, perhaps – at least partially – from the presence of ambient music found, often quite successfully, in film as a literal background to the visual images taking place on the screen. However, while a film score may be technically understood as something taking place in the background, secondary to the visual stimulus, it actually constitutes a heightened state of listening, one guided meticulously by the images, and whether it is recognized consciously or not, the moment constitutes an acute mental attention to and connection with the music. The opposite is true if one plays music, literally, as a backdrop to another activity. In this space, ambient or drone-based music falls completely flat and can be more irritating than anything else. In fact, the only “activity” that I can think of that would be ideal for drone based music, is the act of going to sleep. Which brings me to Joseph McNulty’s Trail Running cassette, released on Sean McCann’s illustrious Roll Over Rover label. It took me some time to really sink into this release, a cerebral experience, that only really became poignant once I took the time to listen to it on its own terms – without distractions. McNulty’s compositions here are milky-gorgeous, cinematic, glowing and somewhat sleepy. On top of all the elegance, a mixture of electronic and classical tones with little bits of guitar here and there, Trail Running contains small snippets of recordings culled from various sources, most notably a variety of amateur high school sports reporting, but also cuts from famous speeches and other places, each offering a surreal juxtaposition to the serene flow enchanting the air below it. It’s quite a wonderful release, and limited too. Only 100 copies. So head over to Roll Over Rover records and snag one because these tapes never last long. A wonderful wonderful Tape.
Trail Running at Roll Over Rover