Stephan Moore – Stage

6.9.22 by Matty McPherson

Stephan Moore is a name we last checked in with in 2020, when he cooked up a batch of “solo voice music” for the “Chicago Sound Show” exhibition at the University of Chicago. Those tracks ended up making the bulk of Dreamwalk with Solo Voice, his fall 2020 release for Dead Definition. Well, Moore had more than just that on his plate at the time, wrapping up an older commission from 2017 for cassette home recording. “STAGE was composed as the score for the middle piece in a trilogy of works by choreographer Yanira Castro and realized by her company, a canary torsi.” I’ve practically undervalued this release even as it sat in a special pile for longer than I can remember. What exactly scared me about this release enough to not directly file it away? I truly could not tell you, as when I recently culled it back from the depths and gave it the hi-fi treatment, I found myself quite engulfed by the timbres found within this plane of existence.

Stage is split into eight tracks. Its slow build to a roaring climax and then bowing out back towards an austere finale do welcome it to these track breaks, yet is much more attuned to being side A/side B longform situation. As the Bandcamp bio reports, the crux of this performance is held by the musicians’ performance on “the Wall of Metals, a homemade instrument comprised of a 10-foot long sheet of steel, used as a resonator, with multiple cymbals, prayer bowls, and brass rods attached to it.” It’s a fascinating wall of sound, filling the space flush with all sorts of textures that feel regionally diverse. Pre-industrial music? Perhaps of its own accord. As the opening movements of side a lurk away from murky zones that best reflect decrepit New England lighthouses and balmy beaches, the Wall of Metals is introduced. It gasps and gushes, an endless gurgling crescendo lighting a path forward. An abstract dream of percussives.

It’s on “Sustained Explosion” that we finally experience the full force of this approach to scoring. Moore’s Wall of Sound collides, its fury enacting a fantastical array of sounds that go beyond a singular locale or zone. It may as well be a dispatch from the gates of Persephone, greatly clamoring and clanking with an intensity that ignites a divine spirit. For as reverent as it is, it is also bright; the melody is its own zippy kind of noise that carries such a bewildering, psychedelic spirit.

However, it is not an energy that can sustain an entire tape, just its climax. The back half of the tape’s B-side (split between “Trio,” “Bath,” and “Transfiguration”) is an eerie, atmospheric comedown. The clanks are minimal, softer and with a little more of a tickle to their sound. Medicine bowls and other deep listening instruments sustain the piece as it slowly comes down. The denouement, Transfiguration, practically sharpens the Wall of Metals into its razor-stricken form. Its vaporous free-jazz, a tumultuous revolt that lashes until it can no more.

Limited edition hand-dubbed rubine cassette, edition of 30, available from the Dead Definition Bandcamp page.