New Batch – Garden Portal

3.12.20 by Tony Lien

Northern Minnesota is a frozen wasteland six months out of the year, so even the mention of Garden Portal (and the moderate wintertime temperatures of Georgia – where the label is ran from) is enough to slap a wistful smile on my face. Imagine, then, how I feel when I learn of a new set of releases. You could say it’s a moment akin to that part in The Revenant when Leo finally reaches the outpost near the end of the movie, frozen to his weary bones and still covered in blood from when he had to hide inside of his horse’s carcass in order to keep warm the night before. 

Sorry. It really does get cold up here. And I love Garden Portal. 

Anyway, prepare yourself for two sprawling yet intimate tapes – both with a very spooky release date (Friday the 13th): “Ohio” by Matthew J. Rolin and “Beacon” by Gerycz/Powers/Rolin.

Matthew J. Rolin – Ohio

While “Ohio” is a mostly solo endeavor (listen for the superb singing bowl addition to the track “Brooklyn Center” –  courtesy of Cloud Nothing’s Jayson Gerycz), Beacon is a collaborative album featuring the aforementioned Rolin and Gerycz, along with Jen Powers (dulcimer extraordinaire and second half of the Rolin/Powers duo). Despite the fact that both tapes were born of fruitful musical friendships, the albums couldn’t be more different – due to both atmosphere and technical execution.

From its very first moments to the droned-out epilogue of its final track, “Ohio” is a visual album; the image-ridden majesty of its meandering melodies far surpasses that of a warm Midwestern horizon. Add to that a transportive, forward-moving quality that mimics the onward chugging of a freight train and you have a shoddy yet well-intentioned attempt by yours truly to describe the journey that awaits once you dawn a pair of headphones. Yes, Rolin’s expert execution of dynamics and overall timing truly creates a sort of point A to point B feeling – an almost tangible representation of movement/passage of time that seems as real as the pebbles stuck between the ridges of the soles of one’s shoes. No song on the album truly repeats itself; the compositions push forward through the minutes, changing either slightly or drastically – whatever the universe contained within the frequencies permits. 

Gerycz / Powers / Rolin – Beacon

Beacon maintains a similar explorative feel, but nonetheless exists in a totally different era (or really, a completely different age). Whereas Ohio exhibits a sense of wandering and general lightheartedness, Beacon seems quite a bit heavier, a bit more in tune with the seismic forces that shape the earth. Powers and Gerycz both do their part to add their respective colors/designs to the auditory tapestry, augmenting Rolin’s guitar work with a sort of chemical intelligence/urgency that bubbles under the surface of the primordial ooze of joyful improvisation. The end result is a soundtrack to either the prologue of life on earth or the inevitable, post-apocalyptic erosion of all ephemeral human structures. No matter the case, the beauty cannot be denied. 

As is the case with Garden Portal tapes, they tend to sell out quickly. I would suggest scooping these up; we all must appreciate such musical harvests while we can.

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