After a yawning gap of nearly ten years, Sister Maps marks the return of Sublamp on America’s Dragon’s Eye Recordings. This collection is built around location, topography, and geography; the songs are parallel with one another, sharing two-dimensional commonalities while being divorced by the three-dimensional reality of distance. The location looks vastly different in real life; a map, printed on sheets of paper, doesn’t do it justice.
Reflecting on the impossibility of knowing or understanding a place when presented with only a fleeting glimpse of it, and inspired by a three-week, nineteen-city tour for the live recording of Comedy Bang Bang, Sublamp concentrates on six pieces of music, all of which are exactly twelve minutes in length. While this makes for a lengthy touchdown, each track captures a different angle, putting the listener into the sleepy trance of transit. Like a CCTV camera feed, it’s the same footage, but a different perspective. Each piece becomes a different, unknowable city as the music brings to life six undisclosed locations.
A labyrinthine album ensues, where drones snake around in non-linear directions and weary textures crumble and collapse. Instead of boarding at track 1, the listener is thrown into a dizzying texture and an unknown location, and with no guide book or directions at hand. This is what it feels like to be thoroughly lost, but rather than being fearful (and, in this situation, fear and sudden panic are usually joined at the hip), the music revels in it, looking inquisitively at architectural tattoos and unfamiliar writings as it drunkenly explores its new environment.
Each track affects the other, and in that sense, there’s a definite flow to the record, and a subtle, narrow path in the midst of the maze that one, if found, may take. The music’s circular patterns help to reveal this new city. New York, and Downtown Manhattan in particular, has its blocks of perfect geometry, but even the skyscrapers and buildings are divided up by streets and avenues, segmented and spliced into different parts. Central Park sits in the middle, breaking up the blocks. And London is a sprawling mess, its inner-city and suburban tributaries flowing in wavy lines and zigzags, presenting an unclear, intoxicated geography. Cities aren’t always linear; how can they be? The architecture in the music resembles the architecture of this imaginary city, its structures automatically and immediately influencing the surrounding space and causing its pedestrians to scatter, its constructed tones immediately influencing the flow of all other tones.
Put an object in the middle of an area, and everything around it will have to adapt, to change direction, to change the amount of pressure, because of it. Cause. Effect.
In both name and self, Ryan Connor’s tracks are maps. The Los Angeles composer and sound designer uses processed electric guitars to create thick and well-built textural skyscrapers, but these constructions are also able to bend in the wind. They enjoy a flexibility, a sleek core, and one in which no modern architect is capable of designing. It should come as no surprise, perhaps, to learn of Connor’s interest and work within the areas of environment and space, and how geography, and cartography, links up with and interacts with sound. It runs in the family. His father worked as a natural resources specialist for Colorado’s National Park Service, and his mother was an environmental chemist.
The rooms in this hotel all look the same. But the city is far from uniform. It stretches, slopes, winds, and dislocates. There isn’t one defining pattern, but it does revolve around itself, like water in the sink, cycling around open areas and busy districts.