On first listen, you wouldn’t think to associate Evan Camaniti’s “Night Dust” with either dub or vampire movies, but after spending some time with it you wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to hear that those things were influences on it either. Described in terms of smoky blue hues and washed out lights, and covered in painted artwork to match, the album marks something of a departure from the Americana desert amplifier worship and kosmische inspirations Camatini is best known for exploring in his work with both Barn Owl and Higuma. On his debut release for Immune, the musical and narrative focus instead shifts to mediations on texture, fractured dub techniques and spacious electric guitar compositions; all filtered through a homage to tape - the album sees a release to cassette in addition to high quality virgin vinyl, having also been committed to 4 track tape recorder. Evan graciously took some time at the end of a recent set of European shows with Barn Owl to discuss “Night Dust” via email…
Was the album recorded direct to 4-track tape? How was that done?
EC: I just used a cassette 4 track for basic tracking but then bounced the tracks through an effects chain to a DAW and layered gradually on top of that. I was influenced by the approach of dub mixes so there is a lot delay involved but I experimented with other techniques like playing cassettes back through different amps and re-recording them or playing tapes backwards.
The idea was to add different colors and dimensions to pretty minimal and spacious guitar pieces.
Why the focus on cassette?
EC: I was just drawn to the sound of cassette tape and it was the only feasible way for me to record to tape on my own.
If it was done to tape, you’d expect it to be hissy, but it’s very clean. Who mastered it?
EC: As for the tape hiss, I EQ’ed a lot of the hiss out purposefully to give it the “dusty” sound I was looking for, where everything is kind of soft and distant and aged.
That being said the awesome mastering job was done by Andreas Lubich at Duplates & Mastering.
How long did it take to finish?
EC: The record took somewhere around a year to finish including the art and everything. The music was the focus for around 9 months of composing, recording and mixing.
The artwork happened at various points along the way and was a mixed media project with painting and printmaking involved.
How long were you in Europe for?
EC: We played 17 shows in 17 days and had a day in Berlin at the beginning and end to relax.
How was the tour?
EC: The tour was great, some really memorable shows. Playing an original Sunn Model T through a full stack at Roadburn was amazing, so physical.
Played a church in Erfurt, Germany with TVs set up on the altar, playing the video that accompanies our set (made by John Davis). It’s usually projected as one big image but there were 9 TVs set up…slightly blasphemous. Some great shows with OM, including the amazing UT Connewitz in Leipzig, an old theater.
What’s happening for you next?
EC: Well, I actually have a new record coming out on Thrill Jockey called “Dreamless Sleep” in August. It’s a companion to “Night Dust” in a way because I focused on recording to tape and my process of obscuring the source material. However, this record is much more inspired by devotional music.
Devotional music isn’t something immediately attributable on first listen either, but this and the disparate components all mentioned above do coalesce into a fascinatingly detached mélange of cavernous molten guitar.
The dusty and aged sound Evan mentions is neatly counterbalanced by the dry immediacy of tape warmth, and the space in the mixes means a lot of the material sounds quite physically deep. Opening track ‘Near Dark’ could be visually represented by sunset light shining down a long marble hallway, such is the length and presence.
‘Red Sun Blues’ is a faded and shuddering dub-like decay, and the distant percussive thumps of ‘Returning Spirits’ mingle with flickering distorted guitar leads; with a hint of tape noise to open, this is one of the only tracks to really show its hand in regard to origin (‘First Light II’ being another).
‘A Memory or a Mirage’ is closest to what one might expect from Camaniti upon reading the description of the project, and comes closest to encapsulating the album brief whilst being easily identifiable as his work. It’s also a good case in point for the element I found most interesting in the whole exercise – there’s a sense of there being a partially transparent veil over the material, which results in different shapes, shadows and movements being identifiable from a distance; yet only when the light coming from behind allows.
I drifted off to sleep listening to the album on headphones more than once, and often awoke to find myself in different places in the album (on shuffle) with tracks that I had heard before sounding markedly different, almost unrecognizable. Asleep, I’d be up the back of the sound with the devotional hum. Awake, up the front with the crackling guitar lines. Coming out of the twilight between both, the material bridges the fugue state and occupies a territory that is difficult to define.
When the leads of ‘Moon is the Hunter’ pierce that veil, all the devotional references to the undead make sense, and when the distant booming amp hum of ‘Last Blue Moments’ is placed next to it, the dub references align perfectly.
A confident, articulate meditation of depth and clarity, “Night Dust” is available from Immune as of the 15th May, and is available for preorder now. For discerning waxheads, the LP has been presented as displaying the utmost highest production standards in all regards; heavy-duty old-style tip-on gatefold jacket printed on uncoated stock. The C40 cassette is extremely well priced (six US dollars!), but Immune have cautioned that due to the long turn around times and unpredictable nature of cassette manufacturing they may not quite be able to ship on street date.
Immune also make prominent mention of the fact that due to the heavy gatefold jacket the item weighs more than normal single LPs and shipping costs are affected accordingly – it seems that unfortunately postage is going up sharply everywhere, not just in Europe. I’m confident in saying that listeners would find the end result rewarding, regardless of cost and timeframe, and I personally appreciate the direct and upfront honesty from the label about costs and manufacturing.