Tabs Out | New Batch – Aural Canyon

New Batch – Aural Canyon
8.31.17 by Ryan Masteller


Texas-based tape label Aural Canyon began life with the Benefit Compilation for Planned Parenthoodwhich, I mean, c’mon, at this point you either choose to help people or you’re out. Why would you not want everyone to have access to programs and services they need, regardless of what you think? I promise I’m not going to get all soapbox-y, so I’ll stop there, but kudos to Aural Canyon for the initial baby step in the right direction. Turns out that initial step pointed to an initial tape batch that’s also hell-bent on helping people of various configurations, so let’s give our attention to the REAL American heroes sloughing through the emotional muck instead of those abhorrent fatcats running the place.

I can’t say it enough – HELP PEOPLE. Whenever you can.

(Speaking of helping people – as Aural Canyon, and all artists involved in this batch, are Texas-based, we can’t help but consider those in need in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Please visit the Red Cross page, or the page of your organization of choice, and lend a hand. They need all the assistance they can get.)

In huge, all-cap letters emblazoned across the label’s Bandcamp description you’ll find the following “mission statement,” I guess you’d call it: “DEEP AMBIENT / DRONE HAZING / SOUND BATHING.” I’d add to that “RECOVERY MUSIC,” and that’s not just because City of Dawn’s tape is called “Recovery II.” From what I gather, each of these tapes serves as a balm for its creator in some way, whether intentionally or not, and the “RECOVERY MUSIC” on each is an outward gift to listeners to use as their own therapeutic tool. So let’s heal ourselves with whatever can be found at the bottom of Aural Canyon, shall we?


Damien Duque of McAllen, Texas, records as City of Dawn, and “Recovery II” is his hymn to the autistic. Duque has autism himself, and over the years he’s used music as a release for the anxiety and depression that accompany the condition. But this, here, is a celebration; so celebrate life with autism, because, in the words of Duque himself, “Autism is not a disability, it’s a different ability! Autism is not a disease, so do not try to cure us. Please try to understand us.” It’s easy grab on to what City of Dawn is working with here, as guitars, synthesizers, and found sound function as a euphonic bed to rest on; you can join Duque in the euphoria and immerse yourself in and become part of this vision. It’s like Sigur Rós lite, if we only had the quiet moments without the occasional bombast. Recovery II is an unexpected treasure.


Minimal techno and IDM is the name of the game for euphoric clickmeister Robert Thompson, aka Visjøner (aka, in other circles, Mojave Triangles, Quartz Safari, and Paa Annandalli, depending on what day of the week it happens to be, probably), and you may find that I use a variation of “euphoria” for all four of these tapes. This one gets slapped with the tag because although it’s techno, and the beats are decidedly of the 4/4 variety (one could certainly crank the bass on this one to make an impression with their subwoofers on their tricked-out ride), the melodies and textures gleam like a galaxy swirling out into the cosmos. It’s the kind of music you can close your eyes to and just get transported, man, to a far-out, faraway place. Visjøner is the captain of your rocketship, and you can forget all your troubles, because your destination will have none of them – you can start over. Yeah, that’s a shiver of enthusiasm that just coursed through your body. Ride the wave.


OK, so – Dark Days documents severe depression, and despite that heady topic, and the artists’ “unhealthy fascination with the macabre,” the tape is surprisingly accessible and welcoming. Melancholy, sure, but who/what isn’t these days? (See spittle-flinging rant above.) Garza and FP (aka Josh Doughty) swirl lovely synthesizers, gentle guitar, and sparse electronic rhythms together into a cloud of shoegaze-y ambient, all textures, all the time, “Better Daze under These Gray Skies” seemingly the centerpiece, the hopeful foretelling of, ahem, better days ahead. Till then the gloom envelops us, but we’re not alone – we are accompanied in our dull ache by the duo, and … is that a porn sample? It is a porn sample, on “Neon Flesh.” Huh. And … not out of place, which is equally weird. I guess sex can be therapeutic too, or at least the idea of an intimate relationship can be applied as a spiritual balm. I think, anyway. I’ve moved on, blissed out by this thing, an experience I’d never expected something called Dark Days to initiate. Euphoric? Damn right.


And here we come to the part of the program where we are fully healed and sent on our way, out into the world to spread the good news and great joy of the warming glow of Aural Canyon’s warming glow. Adam Pacione, dear man, you’ve done it. Thirty gall-dang minutes of the most gorgeous ambient drift this side of the aurora borealis, EUPHORIA IN EXCELCIS DEO. “Midnight Summer” is the exact opposite of an endless bummer, a heavenly presence smack in the middle of a MASH unit, doling out benevolent miracle after benevolent miracle. Derek Rogers, with “Sun and Sky, Mirrored” parts 1 through 3 keeps wheeling in gurneys of the afflicted, and he and Adam keep tossing those gurneys aside as the afflicted emerge fully healed. It’s no wonder – each side of this split is an example of a master at work, total drones washing equally over body and mind: aural convalescence. Keep it coming, you magnificent bastards you.


Phew. Each gorgeous tape comes in an edition of 50. Get on it.

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