Steve Pacheco’s “Constellate” is the latest cassette release from the consistently excellent Dauw label. It serves as the debut release for Pacheco and while he does have a social media presence – albeit limited – biography is not his forte. But that lack of information only works to support the work better by adding a sense of focus to the music itself. And the music is stellar.
As the linter notes spell out, ‘constellate’ means to “form or cause to form in a group or cluster.” In that sense, the reference could be about the idea of an album in general, in that it is a cluster of songs. But, as many of the song titles allude to. “Constellate” is indeed a reference to the constellations found in the night sky. But the song titles equally seem to reference a very personal experience. It’s an album that feels equal parts grand, and deeply intimate.
If one lacks familiarity with the very idea constellations, the night sky is a random collection of stars. It’s an overwhelming and awe-inspiring dark mass interrupted by an assortment of specs of light. However, if one is familiar with the notion of constellations, then it is understood that the night sky is made up of 88 constellations, and each and every star belongs to one of those 88 constellations. And what does any of that have to do with Pacheco’s album? Well, there are two ways to approach “Constellate”: it’s an overwhelming mass of ambience – an unsolvable mystery that unfolds before the listener, or, alternatively, it’s an immersive experience that demands attention and is defined by so many points of light subtly moving the music forward.
Take opener “And so it begins” – on the one hand the piece can be heard as an overwhelming mass of droning distortion created by some source sound. There is little movement and the piece just kind of ‘is’. On the other hand, if the listener makes the piece the focus of their attention, there is a distorted hum that rolls in and out like waves of sound. But the crests of those waves bring in synth sounds, piano, guitar and all sorts of subtle organic sounds that seem to ground the piece and propel it forward.
And across its 7 pieces, all of “Constellate”, from its song titles to its feeling, the whole thing, can be heard as a series of broad strokes that drift over the listener and have a mysteriously hypnotic quality, or a series of smaller brush strokes that add up to a much grander whole than the sum of its parts. Even the song titles bring together references to the grand scale of the entire night sky hovering over a planet matched against references to something that seems deeply personal.
But perhaps the biggest credit to “Constellate” is that no matter the interpretation, whether it be grand global narrative or personal story, it’s an album that just plain works on both levels. And much like the mystery created by Pacheco’s deliberate disinterest in personal biography, the album has a mystery of its own going for it: why’s it so damn good? “Constellate” is a remarkable offering by any definition; that it serves as a debut release for an artist only compounds how impressive it is.
Available through the Stashed Goods website.