Night Sky Body – Pain/Air
6.27.22 by Matty McPherson
Sound as Language has been slowly hashing out its aesthetic and general ethos for the last two years. Ki Oni (arguably the A-list bad boy of ambient), brin (the A-list bad boy graphic designer of ambient), euglossine (the library music enthusiast of ambient), and Matthew Ryals (the bad boy modular synth enthusiast) are on one end, exploring eye-wnking ambient zones where not all is as it seems. Flight Mode and Tar Of are on the other, obliterating everything in sight with fiery fury and noise pop explosions. Truly, we haven’t seen an “ambient label that rlly likes emo” like this in the history of tape labels. Also, their tapes have o-card outer sleeves. It’s quite nice.
The label also is anything but regionally focused. Will might be steering the ship somewhere out of LA, but his knack for curating a roster filled with the crevices of the continental United States is worthy of commendation. Recently, I’ve been chilling with the work of Murfreesboro, TN’s Night Sky Body (fka Sparkling Wide Pressure, AKA Frank Baugh). Baugh’s got a hefty CV with works extending from Hooker Vision to Lillerne and Never Anything. His new EP for Sound as Language, pain/air, is a continued meditation of his songwriting practice; ” Dream imagery, automatic writing, and psychological landscapes” are the guiding MO for pain/air’s six tracks.
For a C30, it’s considerately fluid and dense. This approach to songwriting is a mend of electronics (including sampling) with shimmering guitars and somber piano, sort of just seeing what might come of it. Sometimes it is real dream music. Other times, it’s gothic nightmares. Neither are handled without an acknowledgement of the other though, giving the tape a situated balance and the aura of a journey. In the tapes most wide-eyed moments, like opener Clouds Form, the sounds come in with a crystal clarity, automatically endearing and gracious. Side A’s other two tracks, Lawrence and Undo Fragments, let the automatic mumble writing seep in, casually becoming a meditation to one’s self; an exercise in the subconscious. Yet, Undo Fragments’ sampling of heavier bass textures doesn’t quite function in the constructivist manner it seems to be edging for.
Side B though, is able to better mend these textures together into a cohesive suite. Braugh’s automatic writing is more sinister on Picture a Garden There, itself benefitting from the brooding synths and shaken strings/percussive textures. Together, there’s a real sense of uncertainty and desperation; like you’ve just fallen into a gothic rabbit hole. Between’s unshaken piano and low end practically keep that journey on its toes. You’re not sure where you’ll end up but fortunately, it’ll be at Relief. Just like Clouds Form, Relief is a bright track on the tape. Morphing between precious piano and wicked feedback, it lands comfortably on an astral plane, slowly whisking away.
Edition of 100 carmine red ink on frosted ice cassette with Ocard outer sleeve, available at the Sound as Language Bandcamp.