Dustin Wong’s latest release (Thrill Jockey Records) is a rapt conversation between excited participants that may not even know they live on the same planet. Not that these well-paced loops, colorfully exuberant guitar tones, effect pedaled planetoids of musical dust and light, and the rest of the sounds used on his perfectly titled ‘”Mediation of Ecstatic Energy,’ are capable of dialogue, or live in a particular place. These songs do grow around you, and it seems natural. What I mean by natural, is that this growth beneath you, over you…and so forth— It just happens before you get too head-stuck into over-thinking this is the case. You’re not thinking about this track or that one, you get caught up in the livingness of the sound, and before you know it by thunder!—- you’re deep within the mad amalgamated beating heart of the thing—half way in, and bound by the blue vines gently wrapping around you– serving as the slipperiest of manacles.
This album is the crown jewel, and final installment of a trilogy. I didn’t find enough meaningful connections with the other works to draw grand themes, or what have you, so I’ll just wax euphoric a bit on what may be one of the best and innovative new albums that have come across my ears in a while.
As mentioned—songs on ‘Mediation of Ecstatic Energy,’ feel more like a living organism than a product, well executed or otherwise. The songs visit your body and head without filling any paper work, seeping into your body tissue, or entwining into your hair. Hair drug tests after listening to the album might reveal a heavy dosage of Dustin Wongage! Just imagine music showing up as a drug in your hair. Well sir, the test results are in—you don’t have the job, looks like you’ve been playing a bit too much Pharaoh Overlord for your own good, and certainly for ours! It’s a fun thought. Anyway, the tunes are closing/opening, perhaps like a plant, or some such life-form that allows you to see its opening, and closing, speeding up its typical motion for your pleasure without need of time-lapse technology.
Time signatures are unafraid to freak-about, joining up with mordant bass stabs that compliment fiery fine points of guitar work, washed in a protective fluid that travels with the roaming nuclei of emotional depth that spreads itself in many moments during the 14 tracks of album. Most of the music is instrumental, with occasional vocal sounds deftly blurring into the weft of these well stitched together tunes. Upon first listen, the continuity of the various tracks batting into each other’s eyes, puts me in the mind of listening to Roedelius, perhaps capturing, and releasing with quicker fingers, the sparse and full cosmic lull and lift off a track from Selbstportrait – Vol. II —-the fourth solo album by the German keyboardist put out in 1970’s. Digging a bit into the artist’s interests—sure enough!! I got that ‘yeah…that was it satisfaction’— reading about how Dustin was very much into that continuously fascinating German experimental electronic music from 70’s—often called ‘Kosmische’ music. I happen to like that sort of music, so I was all the happier to feel the continuity with something that already lifted me up, and made me pay all sorts of notice, which in turn rewarded.
Mediation of Ecstatic Energy starts with ‘The Big She.’ Oh she’s big alright, a plumpy mash of erratic, energetic lines crossing each other, forming a brilliant loop that jumps about as if reacting to an unseen flash of lightning wearing a flattering lightning bra that burns down to earth, a cadre of lunatics jumping into the fray of sound as it builds and whirs, foot-prints climb in the air all white-gold and jaggy-rising, a portent or an illumination stretches the presence the big gal. Emerald Atmosphere (track 2) borrows the shoes of ‘The Big She’ on her way out, and scatters peacefully to a wide open soundscape enriched by a poised and excited belt of aural dust that flutters and absconds, doubling into itself till it finds itself as Track 3—Imaginelectric. This is the end of the first movement of this mediation, or so it seems to me. Imaginelectric pulls in different directions, exhorting one to embrace the tension— the deep joy of the splitting-togetherness to be culled into something more powerful. There is no doubt that there is an earnest spiritual quest in this album, something perhaps basted by the wet feelings produced in the artist by moving back to the Japan of his youth. But so much pours over so much.
M of E E employs a steady diet of counterpoint. Melodies wave to each other constantly. These works grab each other’s hands, crossing paths, hitching onto the train or gliders that carry melodies together— depending if they’re more terrestrial creatures such as a track like Cityscape Floated (don’t let the title fool you.) The track that precedes this—-Liberal Christian Youth Ministry (Wong attended such a place as kid) is a head-full of static-fuzzy guitar pushing up along a vertical column. It sounds like a sort of quiet, but powerful worshiping as it begins, and I thought this way before I knew what the title of the track was, listening to album over and over again. An atmosphere thickens and allows deep breathes. I can only hear the deepest of breathing as ‘Out of the Crown Head’ bows into beginning, and begins to sweat. This album truly manages to lend peace to a heart, as it activates a part of one’s musical spirit that might have been left untouched during your fun moments with many other records that shook you, or took you with it, but didn’t hit a particular spot.
Here is a video for Imaginelectric: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9vMLgZWH-M
Maybe it’s all the wild, sudden swerving, but always in control movement of the album that makes it sound like such a unitary creature. All those AB switches that the artist makes such artful use of has produced feelings in this listener that has me grabbing for an imaginary ticket deep in my pocket to so many places, but I need not move from where I am for a ride that will accent a sudden heavy but sweetly precise series of changes in direction within me. Dustin mentions one particular thought in an interview that really summed up where he was going with this work:
“Sounds allow different contradictions to move in harmony.” I so heartily find myself in agreement with this statement. It’s something that makes listening to music, or music itself, so potentially more liberating than many other activities. Listening to music most certainly does not need to be a passive activity, the equivalent of people being fed their surfeit of media pink-slime as they gaze at a little frying screen, or spool around an inane repetitive pre-packaged vapor—sales-pitch in the drag of music or entertainment. Dustin’s above quoted thought really is the ethos within these songs, and the aura of them. Wong’s aura appears as the umbra of a torched orange shade, and serves as the cover for his album. An aura—an interesting idea at the least!
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