Review of Upward, Broken, Always [12k2042]

Fluid Radio (UK)

Taylor Deupree and long-time label-mate Corey Fuller were born in the US state of Ohio. Their Ohio project began with a cover of Damien Jurado’s song, and it helped in extracting them from their ambient ‘comfort zone’. This new path has produced fresh music. Their version of Jurado’s song ‘Ohio’ slowed things right down and used acoustic guitars, electric guitars, vocals, harmonies, a pop-centred song structure, and field recordings, which helped to distance the artists from a discography of minimal, textured work. This isn’t a collaboration of distance, either. The pair felt that working together in the same room was important, so instead of emailing back and forth and sending snippets through broadband cables, they travelled between Tokyo and New York in order to share a studio.

Upward, Broken, Always has taken four years to ripen, residing between the gaps of carefree acceptance (the ambient side) and the intense freneticism of life in general (a series of noisier and intense passages where dynamics swell in either an act of aggression or as a reaction to stress). Acoustic guitars offer a breather, coming hot-on-the-heels of a burning electric guitar. The electric guitar rides along the highway of the fretboard at a blistering pace. Cycling wheels (or fingers) grind against the hot asphalt, and steel strings cut deep into the flesh. On the other side, the acoustic guitar is more laid back, providing a soundtrack of eventual rest.

The overdriven electric guitar maintains a gritty sound even as a lighter melody rides shotgun beside it. Sometimes it opens its jaws, unleashing roars of remembrance in gushing waves of distortion, but even the distortion is soft at the edges, ghostly in its formation, looking upon a state through opaque, half-remembered details and truth-bending inaccuracies. Accidents provided moments of inspiration, and they work in the album’s favour: during one of their editing sessions, the tracks were accidentally muted, and that’s how the interludes were born. Older, stripped back fragments lay low, as distant and blurred as a memory of their home state.

Fuller’s sighing, open vocal blends in with a gentle guitar and chiming harmonics. This is a real place, even if it feels too good to be true, stained by the falsity of nostalgia and the full hearts of youth. Chirping birds help to circulate a younger memory of summer afternoons, shaking trees, and jade-printed parks. Every sound recalls a lazy and glorious day, and the acoustic sound also helps to contrast and contradict the electric guitar’s bold effects, stripping the sound back, undressing it, and providing a natural sound for natural surroundings.

Upward, Broken, Always releases digitally and as a limited edition double 12’’ LP (restricted to 125 copies), with the LP art featuring an aerial photograph of Ohio, as well as the barn from Deupree’s childhood home in the gatefold jacket. 3 sides of audio make up the release, with Side D of the 2nd record featuring a full-side graphical etching of a topographical map.

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