Loren Chasse & Michael Northam The Otolith
Release Date: October 2008
The recordings of Loren Chasse and Michael Northam begin and end with the great outdoors. Yet, the well-documented wanderlust of these two kindred sound artists is only part of the equation. Field recordings of wind, water, and stone intertwine and hybridize within private rituals of droning psychedelic ragas that return as a folklore reiterating the mystery of the natural world around us. Through his numerous contributions to the multi-faceted Jewelled Antler as well his solo work, Chasse has long postulated the microphone as an extension of his ear, which magnifies and probes the surface of the earth for a tactile grit that permeates all of the sounds that he generates. Northam claims his inspiration from vast geographies, microscopic detail, and severe weather, which he compacts through various techniques to explore what is between improvisation and acousmatic composition. Both Chasse and Northam entertain such notions through an alchemy of arcane instruments: autoharps, ouds, flutes, bells, gongs, bowed wires, harmonium, and Northam's magnetic table harp.
The Otolith is the result of several years of work, with sounds gathered collectively in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout Europe. The album speaks as a bramble of fence wire and chaparral scrub oak, acquiring an unkempt collection of rubbish, cobwebs, insects, and soil within its tangle. As the wind pushes in one direction, this mass emits a quite if scratchy melody as if the ghost from a forgotten song; but when the wind changes directions, it bellows a rasping din of metal and vine cracking against itself. This sodden calliope tumbles into a miasma of droning atmospheres, softly rasped distortion, and very subtly rendered lulabies lurking deep within the overgrowth.