artist: Compass Hour
release: Compass Hour
year of release: 2010
label: Brave Mysteries
detailed info: discogs.com
If the publications of the Brave Mysteries label are anything to go by, weirdly esoteric electronica and acoustic music are thriving in the US underground. Releases from projects like Kinit Her and Burial Hex have been impressing quite a few people since the label was established in 2010, and from what I can judge, the recent releases continue an ever more impressive trend. The tape under review here is by a side project of Nathaniel Ritter and Troy Schafer of Kinit Her, together with Eric Bray (Arctic Hospital). It’s a marvellous work from what is currently somewhere in the middle of the Brave Mysteries catalogue, released somewhere last year.
The six unnamed tracks on this forty-minute tape are best described as acoustic ritual music, possibly improvised, and very rich in both texture and atmosphere. Most prominent in the tracks are various bowed string instruments, hammered dulcimers, woodwinds, some violin and cello leads perhaps, but with subtle layers of electronic drones, tape hiss, and various other sounds in the background, not to mention percussion that supplements the pulse of the pieces perfectly.
I say ritual music, because the compositions here sound as if they are meant to conjure or describe the obscure, living energies of the earth, inherent but hidden forces that are not observed in any normal state of consciousness. The sound accurately reflects this, being neither happy nor dark, not hopeful or depressing either. It is more a matter of exploration, setting foot on unknown paths, unsure of whether we are invited to continue or not.
It is tempting to lapse into endless mystic prose and sensibilities when attempting to describe magical music like this, but it is often the case with literally esoteric music like this that you’re best off experiencing it for yourself. That said, anone with a soft spot for experimental acoustic music, whose mind resonates to terms like trance folk, wyrd, or ritual is strongly encouraged to seek out this tape, and the label is a good place to start as there are still copies available of this limited 100 release. I celebrate this eponymous release in any case, and eagerly await more material from Compass Hour.
Reviewed by O.S.