Saturday, May 30, 2020
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Artist: Grant Cutler (@)
Title: Self Portrait
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Cutler’s collaboration with Chris Campbell, “Schooldays Over,” and had enjoyed it, so I was interested to hear what this solo disc sounded like. As the label describes it, “Cutler recorded artists improvising to delayed recordings of themselves, a kind of sonic déja vu where memory and experience blend together in an evolving present. Slowly evolving colors wash over the listener; as though placing a mic in front of a fresh Rothko.” Considering that I had called the previous disc “well done dreamlike music,” this sounds like we are in for a similar ride. “Georgia” starts us off with some staccato arpeggiated tones that give way to a composition of slow moving piano quarter notes and saxophone. Peaceful and calm, but gets more intense as more and more layers emerge out of nowhere.
“The Dream I Float Away” brings us lush soundscapes of strings and drone, a feeling that continues for the next few songs until we reach “Part 2.” This is a bit different, at times keeping with the tranquil feeling of the other tracks, before suddenly kicking in with heavily amplified organ and a bit of distortion and convolution to the track. It is almost startling after the peacefulness of the earlier tracks. This moves into the plodding piano of “Stairwell” before shifting gears once more for “Paroxysm,” which is almost noisy by comparison to the other tracks. This is not harsh noise, but rather a sense of pressure with warbling drone and rumbling bass. Finally, “Drowning” brings it all together with a track that is both noisy and soothing at the same time. The music crashes over you like staticy waves. Overall this lacks the melancholy feel of the previous collaboration. Instead, we have intermittent moments of storminess over a placid sea. If you want to get mellow, this is one to reach for. This album weighs in at around 38 minutes.