Tabs Out | New Batch – Distant Bloom

New Batch – Distant Bloom

2.27.20 by Ryan Masteller

St. Louis lives up to its nickname “Land of a Thousand Arches” by constantly allowing glimpses through those arches and into the greater future beyond. That’s what we love so much about the capital city of Arkansas, the hub of the Midwest, and the “Halfway Point to California”: its forward-thinking and imaginative philosophical grounding, its vibrant cultural scene, and its wellspring of musical talent. Take Distant Bloom for instance – no one exemplifies that frontier spirit like label head Fitz Hartwig as he scours the American landscape for kindred spirits to collaborate with. It’s with this attitude of likeminded inspiration that he unleashes a fusillade of peaceful dreamscapes upon the world.


Speaking of Fitz Hartwig, let’s start with him, shall we? Fitz, “lives in St. Louis, appreciates clouds, and runs Distant Bloom,” two of the three of these facts we’ve already mentioned. Now, if this were Fitz’s Tinder profile, he probably wouldn’t be getting many dates. But for us, who are “in the know,” as they say, these pieces of information are revelatory and cool, revelatory because it gives us an idea of what Oxherding’s work is going to sound like, and cool because who DOESN’T appreciate clouds? Clouds are good, and Fitz makes his synthesizers sound like you’d imagine clouds would sound like if they emanated from synthesizers. Since they don’t, we have to imagine it, and with the help of Oxherding, “Unfolded Along the River,” split into two sides, “Unfolded” and “Along the River,” fills in the gentle buoyancy with pastel watercolor, smearing it across the big Midwest sky like it was meant to beckon you further into the unknown. With Oxherding as your guide, why wouldn’t you plow headfirst into that gorgeous future?


The last time John Daniel released music as Forest Management was thirty seconds ago … oh, wait, it only SEEMS like thirty seconds ago, because, well, Forest Management is kind of prolific. Really prolific. But not prolific enough that can’t use other people’s music as a jumping off point! “Sleep to Dream” is sourced from the Fiona Apple tune of the same name, from all the way back in 1996 (that was a great year for me listening to punk, by the way; vintage stuff). What’s amazing is how differently he approaches each version of the repurposed source material (there are four cuts). “Broken Mix” is slyly comforting, maybe in a way acknowledging that brokenness to move ahead, or perhaps suggesting that the sound source itself is broken because it’s so old and computers in 1996 still had floppy drives. “Winter Mix” is cold and windswept. Like, duh. “Fragment Mix” takes some chances and ratchets up the tension, and whereas “Broken” and “Winter” were somewhat kindred spirits, “Fragment” jerks the audio around so that it drops in and out. As if that one weird trick weren’t enough, “Painted Mix” pulls it all back, gets really contemplative, really cozy, and quietly whisks itself off into the unknown. I wish it had stuck around longer, but no – it’s gone now.


The only person that might challenge the Forest Management prolificacy is certainly Kyle Landstra, and he blows John Daniel out of the water. The PDX ambient superstar drops two twenty-minute sides, prompting the important question on everyone’s minds: Has Kyle Landstra ever released a track that WASN’T twenty minutes long? Not that there’s anything wrong with that – some people just need twenty minutes to get across whatever it is they’re trying to communicate. Here it takes twice that long, but there’s a lot to get through. Both are slow burners (obviously), and both sound the weird light effects that appear on the j-card of this tape. Is that weird considering that Landstra’s synthesizer work is a calming presence everywhere it goes, even as it shifts and changes in barely perceptible fashion over the course of its existence? Is it possible to have more patience than Kyle Landstra does when composing music? Do you think Kyle Landstra lives in the basement of a deep space observatory and sneaks glimpses into the cosmos when none of the other scientists are looking? Is Kyle Landstra actually once of those scientists? It would make a lot of dang sense, that’s all I can really offer.

The Winter 2020 batch, ladies and gentlemen! Editions of 70 for the FM and the Landstra, 50 for the Oxherding. You can probably pay via check for these … oh wait, you can’t? My bad, everybody, get out your credit cards.

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