A draped banner does not always represent the end of the race, or even the point at which the race becomes the finish line. It can be a blockade that stops us from progressing, and it’s a line that we all must try to cross if we are to personally change. If your eyes are still open when you look back on the drooping banner, you’ll see another side to life and to music.
True, it is a defining point, but it is the start of a new beginning rather than the final-second climax of the end. Progress is made when we mark the line and move on, underscoring it as if it were a statement of intent. Like writing down that task you always meant to do and underlining it with heightened determination, it can help you to improve and meet your goals. It shows where we once were, and, crossing the divide, helps push beyond self-imposed limitations. What you find on the other side may shock you.
Cody Yantis, Nathan McLaughlin, Josh Mason and Joe Houpert cross the line that separates what they term ‘aimless’ music from deliberate music. It started as a basic need that saw them separate from the flood of aimless experimental music. The music creates its own lineage, with each piece of music continuing on from the last. In this way, the music becomes something much more than an album or a series; it grows substantially. Over the long term, a deep, lasting relationship is formed, where every record ties itself to the last like a never ending banner.
Desire Path Recordings have undertaken an ambitious project. The quartet’s original banner, A Line in the Sand, has become an intriguing process. What was at first conceived as a set of musical exercises now takes in seven releases and the involvement of a number of musicians and artists. Line Drawings hovers over the border, where a once tentative barrier becomes an unimaginative statue that worships its own shortcomings, and puts down a marker for a brave future. They have a consuming passion to make emotive, purposeful music that will still be standing long after the decline.
Aimless music can be just as emotive as deliberate music, but it depends entirely on the artist, the subject and the execution. However, the quartet have been quick to produce a highly respectable catalogue of work. They take music to new locations.
Alice Sketches, which is a 54 minute cassette of musical conversation, is the first step of the journey. It leads to the Line Drawings LP, a far reaching musical statement that, despite its deliberate thought, is difficult to understand or define. Of course, it is difficult to define because it hasn’t really been done before. They break new ground and this is one of the reasons why it is so interesting; why it has, indeed, crossed the boundary. Largely experimental, the quartet latch onto a solid structure – a solid thought – throughout the album. They each take it in turns to produce a vibrant, sometimes dissonant track that can, on the surface, appear awkward and dismal in its rainy tone.
Appearances can be deceiving. The chocolate atmosphere consists of incidental notes before a breeze of dark jazz arrives. The harsh clanking gives way to the plucked, sliding melody, and the strings of the guitar help to open the shades, pouring some light – and some relief – into the music. The deliberate process gives the music an extra amount of focus. Although too much focus, too much thought, can make the music sterile (the adage ‘the more you think, the more you stink’ is true), they seem to have the right balance. Introverted drones lay beside quieter passages, but they are strange side-streets that glint in the perilous light. The music glimmers with warmth, and yet it’s as cool as a breeze, with shadows disintegrating in the failing light.
The later Studies series is a five record continuation that encourages community and collaboration. The latter series opens itself up to many more musicians – Olli Aarni, Norm Chambers, Anne Guthrie, Mary Lattimore, Brad Rose, and illustrator Chris Koelle. It’s a strong, stable community where artistic freedom is encouraged and never restricted. It’s worth your time checking out the project before they approach and overcome the next barrier that sits, patiently, on the horizon.