Review of Monocoastal [12k1063]

Textura (CA)

Monocoastal perpetuates the move 12k has made in recent times towards a pastoral electro-acoustic style as sound artist Marcus Fischer blankets his album’s guitar inflections with layers of hiss and myriad found sounds. Song titles alone—“Wave Atlas” and “Mossbank” representative of them—clearly allude to the music’s organic, nature-based qualities. Inspiration for the project was Fischer’s movements along the West Coast of America over the last couple of decades, and consequently the tracks are furnished with field recordings that suggest the tranquility of depopulated shorelines. Fischer brings a painterly eye to the material, adding dabs of found sounds—among them a dusty piano and xylophone made of metal wrenches—to spacious settings that meander exploratively. Assembled from guitars, lap harps, melodicas, ukelele, home-made instruments, and cassette recorders, it’s a scenic and richly evocative recording that, even if one weren’t familiar with the project’s background, would on its own terms conjure picturesque associations. That ‘aquatic’ dimension, by the way, is one other 12k artists have explored recently too, with Taylor Deupree’s Shoals, Seaworthy + Matt Rosner’s Two Lakes, and Willits + Sakamoto’s Ocean Fire related variations on the theme, and the guitar-based character of Monocoastal is likewise echoed by the 12k releases 1897 and Sleeping Pills by Seaworthy and Pillowdriver, respectively.

The material has its strongest impact when experienced cumulatively rather than as individual pieces. Despite its wayward, abstract character—one hears smatterings of organ threading through the acoustic guitar plucks and textural crackle and pops— “Mossbank” nevertheless coheres into a peaceful setting of quietly alluring drift. During “Monocoastal 1,” treated slivers of electric guitar punctuate a thick mass of hiss while flickering accents suggest sunlight reflecting off of water. With electric piano fragments and guitar plucks having established a secure base, “Cascadia Obscura” otherwise evokes an impression of wind blowing across barren seaside plains and the creak of a battered screen door gently swinging open in the breeze. “Wind and Wake” evokes the outdoors in the hum of electrical wires that sing amidst the distant roar of the ocean, while “Between Narrow and Small” features guitar fragments that scuttle like crabs on a sandy shore. Each piece exudes a worn character that suggests weathering by a combination of time and the natural elements, and as a result a nostalgic tone emerges as one attends to the material. Adorning the release are Fischer’s own photographs, which, appropriately enough, appear similarly worn as a result of their having been shot with expired Polaroid film.

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