When the sun shines brightly, some parts of a mountain range will always be plunged into shadow. So it is that Nat Evans’ “Coyoteways” contains both intense brightness and murky dark, glimmering tones and deep low rumble. The album doesn’t make a theme out of these contrasts, but rather weaves them together in a wild, undulating landscape, through which wanders the figure of the coyote. The quietness and gentleness of the music belies the intensity of the impression it leaves on the ears and on the mind.
Coyote is a trickster — you think he’ll lead you to food or water, but instead he leads you nowhere. Better to follow a different path, like the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail Evans walked in 2014, from which he drew inspiration for “Coyoteways” and other works. There’s a sense of immense distance and emptiness filling tracks such as ‘Gradient’ and ‘Crossing the River in an Elk’, an emptiness emerging from faint, echoing tones and slow, tentative changes. ‘Gaze’ paints a bolder picture in modulating pitches and deep bass drone, evoking a sense of epic scale. People go out into the wilderness to find themselves, but “Coyoteways” gives the impression of merging into the landscape, of retaining only the barest minimum of human subjectivity.
Some of this music resembles competent garden-variety ambient drone, but most of it is too desolate for that — not desolate in a maudlin sense, but more in a “there’s nothing out here ‘cept me and some rocks and shrubs and coyote trails” sort of way. The final track features the faint swishes and occasional horn of distant traffic, as if listening on the edge of a city with the warmth of the sun on your back and the desert behind you. ‘Last rites’ before returning to civilisation; the in-between places that are the coyote’s true home.