In the distance, they thought they heard a noise. This sound, that lay upon the hum, that those who lived here incessantly heard, crept into their consciousness as their breath slowed. The search was drawing on, time was becoming physical. The landscape was brown, a reddish brown, dusty and warm, and the smoke that was always somewhere off in the distance was still not far enough away. The noises of everyday always seemed like layers of different lives sounded off by the people. Each voice a mystery, yet vital to the whole, but most knew nothing of the lineage. Sometimes the voices called louder when the sun was high, making them long for the cool earth beneath the soil. Memory forgets small details, it fades into now, and you can see that in their eyes. Each step to get here was felt; the earth under foot, and each breath taken was part of the price to pay. Tomorrow will bring another experience, another mystery. But even the tiniest of ideas will set them out again; a hum, a crackle, a reflection. This is where it will continue as they search for the origin.
The quote above comes as part of the one-sheet for “Origin”, the latest collaborative effort between Savvas Ysatis and Taylor Deupree. The text, oddly enough, seems to be specifically written for the sole purposes of this press release. The text suggests a narrator trying to find the connection between the rhythm of internal life and the rhythm of external life. As for the music on “Origin”, it is the most spare work Ysatis and Deupree have created together, relying on hazy drones and little else.
Across all five of its compositions, “Origin” is an album of blurred instrumentation, almost all source sounds have been reduced to pure tones. It’s an interesting counterpoint to an album called “Origin” that whatever the source sounds are/where they originated from is unidentifiable. Opening song “Rite” gets things going gently enough. It’s the equivalent of sitting on a hill 5 minutes outside an urban area and hearing the movement of cars, the hum of electricity, the sound of so much machinery doing its work, all blurring together to create something hypnotic and soothing. Through subtle textures, “Rite” manages to create something uplifting through a few melodies that almost get lost in the denseness of it all. It’s hypnotic, welcoming, and lulls the listener.
From a mechanical standpoint, second song “Cloister” seems to draw from the same palette: blended sounds submerged until they are almost unidentifiable. From a narrative standpoint, “Cloister” tells a different story. It lacks the calming effect of the opener and sounds like a song at war with itself. Whereas “Rite” relied on gentle melodies that peaked through the fog, “Cloister” features what sounds like feedback and malfunctioning electronic gear disrupting the flow of things. It sounds like chaos trying to be ordered, like a meltdown of the digital world giving rise to something unmanageable that refuses to be contained. If “Rite” had a message it’s that all technology can blur together to create an almost choral hum – something safe, almost natural; “Cloister” is the reminder that the technological/mechanical world can’t be completely ordered, controlled, or made completely predictable.
“Navel” calms things down again but balances the narratives of the first two pieces. It manages to blend the calming and violent, but the natural world makes its way into the scheme of things with what sounds like chirping birds. However, if one is looking for a central melody to the piece, that central melody is one that creates a sense of unease. As some of the layers of sound drift away toward the end of the piece, what’s left sounds cold and impenetrable.
Fourth piece “Origin” opens with an almost dirge-like funereal feel, which serves, again, as an interesting counterpoint to the idea of an origin. Unlike, most of the pieces on the album, there seems to be a discernible instrument in the mix: an organ. Spectral voices seem to be at play too. At times the voices seem to be whaling, but as though heard from a great distance. It’s a calming piece in that its not loud or abrasive, but emotionally it gives the listener a sense of being suspect. This idea of point and counterpoint comes up again and again when measuring the music against the text, and when examining how what is calming about the music one second can be unnerving the next.
Much like the opener, final song “Sculptor” is calming without the anxiety inducing undertones of the album’s middle section. Occasionally, there are flickers of something that threatens the serenity of the piece, but overall it all feels warm enough to be inviting.
“Origin” is an interesting title for an album that seems to be the end product of so much processing, an album where the beginnings seem vague and inaccessible. However, if one reads the narrative provided above, an origin point is not a given starting point, but rather something that is sought. It is found through a process of creation first and then refinement. It is not something to be taken for granted but something to be earned and appreciated. And this is where the idea of the album and the music on display actually merge: it’s about refining something to its most basic and fundamental components. It’s about sifting through the rubble and the ash to see what the mortar really looks like piece-by-piece, brick-by-brick. Origin is very different from the other works of Ysatis and Deupree but will likely be welcome for most. It’s one of those albums that seems so simple in the end, but no doubt took a great amount of effort to create the appearance of being simple. And yet, as a counterpoint to that, it’s an album with just enough mystery to keep the listener returning over and over to dig a little deeper with each visit.