Album ReviewsReviews

Review: Clint Heidorn - Atwater (2011)

artist: Clint Heidorn
release: Atwater
format: LP
year of release: 2011
label: Ashes Ashes
dur­a­tion: 37:46

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

To say that Amer­ican poetry, as opposed to European, is more about land­scape than his­tory is surely an exag­ger­a­tion — cer­tainly when we extend this idea to music. Obvi­ously many nat­ive peoples have plenty of Amer­ican his­tory to draw on, and the des­cend­ants of European set­tlers have a few cen­tur­ies of their own to look back to. Europe, con­versely, does­n’t ignore its land­scape, as sev­eral recent releases covered here show (Task­er­lands, The Cloisters). That said, there does appear to be a strong con­nec­tion between the Amer­ican land­scape and its music. A recent reminder is Clint Heidorn’s Atwater LP, a highly lim­ited affair that at first sight looks like a black metal album.

But ’tis not so. If any­where, Atwater is best placed in the tra­di­tion of freefolk that takes its cues from Amer­ican roots music and exper­i­mental rock, in this case with tinges of jazz and clas­sical gui­tar as well. I take it Heidorn com­posed (and pos­sibly impro­vised) the music, but he enlists the aid of numer­ous musi­cians to bring it all to life. Above all, this is an LP of sweet mel­an­cholic ambi­ances and well-placed sparse­ness and silence. Main melody-bear­ers are altern­at­ing acous­tic and warm elec­tric gui­tar, with prom­in­ent cameos for violin, moun­tain dul­ci­mer (I think), and sev­eral oth­ers. Subtle per­cus­sion lines many moments as well, like a layer of crack­ling under­growth.

The first move­ments are sad and con­tem­plat­ive, a few swells of intens­ity in the second, the third wind­ing effort­lessly from neo­folk to some sparse desert rock sounds and back again, both inter­woven. The jazzy under­tones sur­face most prom­in­ently over the course of the fourth track, where a lovely sax­o­phone lead rounds out the mar­vel­lous atmo­sphere of mys­tery. As the album moves for­ward, I get vis­ions of the Amer­ican land in all its diversity, mov­ing from moun­tain and forest to canyon and desert, lake and river. And I’ll be damned if Heidorn has­n’t snuck in a bit of the urban with the indus­trial sound­scapes of the first and last few minutes.

Through­out, Heidorn keeps his calm, mak­ing a gentle music that is, how­ever, any­thing but com­pla­cent. It’s just not filled with the sharp metal rage that the album’s lay­out sug­gests. As it stands, it is a mar­vel­lous and nearly flaw­less album that is all too easy to put on repeat, a real treat that draws its energy from exper­i­mental folk and other (mostly Amer­ican) genres, while sail­ing com­fort­ably some­where in the middle. The LP is a col­lect­or’s item by now, but that’s even more reason to pick up the dirt-cheap digital edi­tion from Heidorn’s Band­camp.

Reviewed by O.S.


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