Review of Shape Memory [12k1088]

A Closer Listen (.COM)

Shape Memory is an album of beauty and friendship, recorded when two like-minded artists were able to find time to share a musical vision.  The title implies both the shaping of memory and the memories of shapes, and the elliptical music follows suit.  Field recordings and tape loops interact with live instrumentation to create a tone of mingled time.  The studio date was fall, the release date spring, the titles (“Ferns”, “Thorns”, “Branches”) indicative of summer.  As the pieces blend into each other, parts of a whole,  the ear perceives a different shape than the eye.

The light percussion of cymbal and chime is set against processed guitar and synthesizer, bringing to mind the dichotomy of sound in a forest: the sound beneath one’s feet contrasted with the sounds around and above.  The album feels as airy as pollen, possessing a meditative tint suggested by the deliberately placed taps of a gong.  Nature is its own temple, and Portland Oregon is just the place to get in touch.  Inside the city limits lies the Portland Japanese Garden; just outside, mountains, rivers and winding roads.

The calm shift from “Ferns” to “Thorns” is nearly imperceptible, and the title of the latter track is a bit misleading, as it implies both tangle and pain.  Fear not; it’s the prettiest piece of the set.  If anything, the track travels deeper into abstraction, more of a thicket than a thorn.  The guitar grows so calm that it blends with the bell tones.  By “Branches”, the peaceful sensation has traveled inward.  The eighth minute includes comfortable play on found objects.  There’s no hurry to change a tape loop; each will run its course.  In like manner, friendship has its own unhurried pace.  Such a lifetime bond cannot be rushed.  But as experiences are layered atop each other and memories are shaped, a friendship can become a safe haven, a green oasis.  Shape Memory is evidence of this gift.  (Richard Allen)

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