Album ReviewsReviews

Review: Compass Hour (2010)

artist: Com­pass Hour
release: Com­pass Hour
format: MC
year of release: 2010
label: Brave Mys­ter­ies
dur­a­tion: 39:58

detailed info: dis​cogs​.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.


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