New Batch – Constellation Tatsu
2.15.17 by Bobby Power
Oakland imprint Constellation Tatsu has been a reliable source of drifting experimentation sourced from all over the globe. Often dropping in batches of three, each set of new sounds uncovers a dizzying array of epiphanies. The label’s latest batch doesn’t mess with the tried and true formula, bringing new sounds from Forest Walker, Ana & Ina, and SODA lite.
First up, Forest Christenson is perhaps best known as one half of Seabat, a duo with composer/synthesist John Also Bennet (Forma). But Christenson has also been involved with a number of sporadic experimental projects, such as Harsh Yoga and Arid Hunter, among others. Now, Christenson steps into his own solo light as Forest Walker with UV Sea, which also turns out to be one of the more confounding and promising debuts out there.
Throughout the tape’s four tracks–two short, two long– the LA-based producer effortlessly culls serene washes of sound that speak not only to Constellation Tatsu’s aesthetic but also Walker’s unique sense of ambient music. With photography and design by John Also Bennett, the final physical product is an elegant blur of imagery and sound.
Opener “Desert Lighthouse” opens with a vaguely Steve Reich-ian cycle of pulsing sounds, perfectly setting the stage for the ensuing aural bliss. Over time, the track shifts in and out of focus, dialing in a beautifully distant piano melody and sifting sheets of static and texture. It almost resembles Tim Hecker without the flurry of frayed noise and overpowering tones. “Amendment of Fundamental Axioms” retreats into negative space, examining modest suggestions of chordal color and intermittent feedback. “Saved Video of a Postcard” veers deeper into more symphonic realms, establishing the low-key dread and peripheral grace of Johann Johannson. Closer “Realtime Lapse” offers the most patient and truly immersive piece here. The 12+ minutes of slowed and slurred drones are pure emotional melancholy, meditating on a theme of sullen hopefulness.
On Dockweiler Beach marks the return of Ana & Ina, the obscured ambient project helmed by writer Ashley Hoffman and visual artist Ian James. Here again, as with the duo’s fantastic Analogue cassette on Complicated Dance Steps from 2011, Hoffman is credited with “thoughts” while James provided “emotions.” The unassuming mystique and loosely explained process leaves quite a bit up to interpretation, making repeat listens all the more addicting.
The A-side “Come In” is a half-hour drift of inviting electronics that slowly morph into various smooth shapes of sound. There’s no narrative whatsoever, leaving all reference points, timestamps, or cues obsolete and amping up the riveting display. B-side “Come Around” floats in a celestial murk of weightless tones and shimmering textures, similar to Pulse Emitter or Windy & Carl. The track’s second half evolves into a disembodied careen of meandering glee.
Finally, Alex Last returns after SODA lite’s exquisite Liquid Earth tape on Illuminated Paths with In Eco, an imagined travelogue to pseudo-sythetic lands. Field recordings seemingly captured from dreams or other fabricated sources intersect with naturalistic backdrops to create seven humid scenes of vaguely picturesque and wholly captivating allure. On tracks “Habitat,” “In Eco,” and “Galatea Point,” reality becomes subjective, perfectly cleansing the palette for the ambiguous ambiance of “Senses,” “Aurai,” and “Lagoon.” The brief but potent closer “Oceania” wraps things up in an air of stranded ambivalence. You might be marooned, but you wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world.