Temporary Residence Records
Explosions in the Sky, supporting mass transit
Photo © EITS, 2006
by Ronen GivonyIf you were to find yourself at a concert at one of New York's many temples of underground or independent music--the Mercury Lounge, say, or the Bowery Ballroom--and you accidentally happened to bump into Jeremy deVine without knowing who he was, you might be forgiven for wondering if you had walked into a situation.
The main reason for this is that when he is standing fully upright, which is not often, Jeremy is 6'2" tall, with broad shoulders, a disarming stare, and a sizable, solid frame. Because of this, he might be mistaken for a bouncer, or a former college football player, albeit one with piercings in both ears and a taste for moody, long-form, experimental rock. Because he has long hair, habitual facial stubble, and a drawer full of black, faded, culturally obscure t-shirts, he might also be mistaken for a less delicate heavy-metal guy of the sort to be found pounding beers at a Tool or Metallica concert, for instance (the first time I arranged to meet him, his girlfriend advised me to look for her next to "a mountain-man-ish gentleman with brown curly hair").
It only takes for Jeremy to open his mouth however, and speak in a voice that sounds about as menacing as Mr. Rogers's, for any potential confusion to dispel. In conversation, Jeremy has the wry and tranquil air of someone accomplished, unpretentious, and self-deprecating. When he is watching a band perform, or listening to music at home, which is very often indeed, he has a look of sustained, faintly devotional concentration that resembles nothing so much as a person contented, even exultant, and given to great depths of feeling, wonder, empathy and joy. These are the very same qualities that shine through in the artists and albums produced by Jeremy's record label, Temporary Residence, which, as it happens, includes some of the most haunting, challenging and important music in any genre to be released in the last few years.
Jeremy is the founder and owner of Temporary Residence Limited (TRL), a small, independent, marginally profitable rock and electronic record label currently based in New York, of which--unless you happen to be a devoted music fan between the ages of 15 and 35 or so--you have most likely never heard. This is not from a lack of effort on Jeremy's part, although to be sure, it also doesn't seem to bother him a great deal. In 2006, TRL celebrated a milestone to which remarkably few artists or labels in the notoriously fast-burning music industry can lay claim: its ten-year anniversary. It did so by throwing a three-night festival and birthday party, complete with cake, at the Bowery Ballroom over Labor Day weekend. Performing over the three evenings were 12 former and current acts on the label, who drove and flew in for the event from California, Oregon, Minnesota, England, and Japan, among other places. The festival capped off a year in which TRL released ten new full-length albums and EP's from eleven different artists. These included Murmurs (TRR 97), an appropriately titled debut disc of porcelain pop by the breathy singer-songwriter Caroline, whose voice aspires to the same neighborhood as early Bjork; You Are There (TRR 98) and Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain (TRR 108), both by the Japanese chamber-metal group MONO, the latter a collaboration scored for classical string ensemble in five movements, written with the Tokyo electronic composer World's End Girlfriend; and Odi Profanum Vulgus et Arceo ("I Hate the Common Crowd and I Spurn Them," cf. Horace's Odes, TRR 103), an assault in 16 tracks and 20 minutes of defiantly anarchic noise by the Swiss-Italian sonic terrorist Miss Violetta Beauregarde (a representative song title is track eight, "I'm the Tiennamen Square Guy and You All Are the Fucking Tanks"). Also released during 2006 was Thankful, a compilation with new music by each of the ten artists signed to the label in the past two years, done to mark TRL's 100th release.
It is a curious time to be the owner of a record label--or, really, anyone in the business of making and selling music. With the arrival of MySpace, iTunes, YouTube, Rhapsody, and illegal file-sharing, the historical role of the music industry--as the middleman between musicians and the record-buying public--has become obsolete. No longer does a band need a label to do the work of getting an album recorded, mastered, manufactured, promoted, distributed to stores, and kept in stock. No longer does an artist need the traditional network of record-label A&R, marketing and accounting departments, commercial radio--even a physical record store, or, indeed, a physical artifact of his own music. As we are told over and over, any kid with a guitar, a computer, and an Internet connection can go from completely anonymous to almost and instantly famous (at least to 15 people) overnight.
And yet: to judge by the growing market share and disproportionate cultural influence of independent labels such as Merge, Matador, Touch and Go, Drag City, Sub Pop, Saddle Creek, Domino, Fat Cat, Arts & Crafts, Kranky, Kill Rock Stars, Warp, Constellation, Southern Lord, Temporary Residence, and a dozen or two others, it would also seem a pretty good time to be the owner of a record label--or, really, anyone who happens not to work for one of the four major music conglomerates: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI. Against the backdrop of an industry in turmoil, small independents such as TRL have seen their sales, audience base, and, most of all, their reach and relevance to the general public, pointedly grow. In light of how many people have now heard a song on TV, in the movies, or the old fashioned-way, by indie-label bands such as The Postal Service, The Shins, The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, Arctic Monkeys, or Explosions in the Sky--not a small number of people--it only made sense to learn that in 2005, independent labels accounted for at least 18 percent of album sales, their biggest share in five years, and closer to 27 percent when certain big independents are included.
Part of the reason for this has to do with simple economies of scale. Whereas a major label will often need an album to sell several hundred thousand copies to earn back the money it spent to market and produce that same album (or, say, Mariah Carey's), an outfit such as TRL can make money on an album that sells only 5,000 copies, or even 2,500. On paper, the sales of TRL's bestselling artist, Explosions in the Sky, would barely register as even a blip on a major label's accounting sheet (this is to say nothing of the label's many releases that never sell 1,000 copies). Even by comparison with the sales of experimental and indie-label artists to whom Explosions is most often likened (Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Tortoise, and Godspeed You Black Emperor) TRL's flagship act is a relatively small fish in the pond. On Temporary Residence, however, Explosions is the major satellite around which all 30-plus acts on the label orbit. Jeremy and TRL can therefore work from a completely different logic than that of their major-label counterparts. That logic is: release what you like, instead of what you need to meet the bottom line. The rest will eventually fall into place.
But it also has to do with something the majors distinctly lack: a loyal, devoted fan base, and a well-deserved reputation as an honest and reliable outlet for new music. That is to say: now that (almost) all music is available online, and therefore essentially created equal, the original function of a record label--as a tastemaker, and talent scout--has returned to the fore. It no longer matters who spends the most money to distribute and promote their records to radio or magazines or record stores. It is, rather, the labels with the best ears, the best taste, and the most sensitive cultural antennae, that are pulling ahead in sales and cultural influence, while the majors continue to stumble and contract. At play then is an unfortunate, unnecessary, and self-perpetuating cycle. Because the big labels can't survive without a regular supply of blockbuster hits, they are less likely to take chances on seemingly marginal, experimental, unconventional music that might not sell well. For this reason, it has increasingly fallen to small independents to seek out and nurture the future Radioheads and Pink Floyds and Velvet Undergrounds of the world--young, raw, and unproven talent, the kind that makes contemporary music a perennially fascinating drama to watch unfold.
The unspoken compact between a good independent label and its fans goes like this: "If you see our name on an album, chances are, you're probably going to get something you'd be willing to buy, or just listen to, even if you haven't heard a note." Not coincidentally, this is also the fan who would always rather pay to have the certified, authentic packaged product in their hands, anachronistic as it might be (oftentimes, the more anachronistic--subscription-only seven-inch colored vinyl, say--the better). Whereas an open source such as MySpace might be charitably described as an infinite void--unfurling endlessly, never to be exhausted--a label such as TRL provides a context, an aesthetic filter, quality control. In other words, the real secret to the continuing cult of indie labels is, quite simply, the quality of their product, which it seems is the only thing in the music industry that money can't buy. They provide some small ammunition with which to fight the feeling that those of us who love music often get, of being overwhelmed by the quantity, and underwhelmed by the quality, of much new music today.
To the ordinary music consumer, or anyone for whom music is not a consuming passion, such considerations will seem peculiar, or eccentric. They point to a statistically tiny and culturally obscure alternative economy--one that is governed less by the rules of the market and more by symbolism, idealism, and romance. For the most part, this is true. As the Village Voice writer Tom Breihan puts it, "There's not a huge amount of money to be made from a bunch of people jumping into vans and playing music in dive-bars across the country, but the whole phenomenon still feeds armies of label guys and publicists and booking agents and writers and managers," not to mention, ideally, the people who actually make and perform that music. At the same time, for those of us who think of music not as simple entertainment but rather an activity as natural as breathing, such questions are of more than casual interest. They lead us to ponder how small, marginally known artists and labels can have an influence and relevance in the greater culture that is far out of proportion with the number of records they happen to have sold, or the number of people they happen to have played to in the audience. Nor is it hyperbole to suggest that in their example could be a direction for an industry that is staggering.
That the initials of Temporary Residence Limited happen to mirror the name of Total Request Live, the MTV program that plays the top ten most requested videos of the day as voted on, allegedly, by the network's teenage listeners, is only one of the ironies surrounding the label's existence today.
When Jeremy deVine was 18, he moved to Baltimore from Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown, to begin art school at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While he was there, he and his roommate Ben Fogarty started a band, and called themselves The (Concord Anthology) Process. The (Concord Anthology) Process wrote a song ("The Winter Outside the Window") and wanted to release it as a single, but figured that no one would buy it on its own (they had yet to write a second song). Jeremy called some friends from Louisville who played in a band called Nero, and suggested that the two groups jointly release a double-sided, seven-inch vinyl single. Nero recorded their song, "6-Fingered Lady," and this is why Temporary Residence Limited was founded: to release the split Nero/(Concord Anthology) Process 7", which arrived in "at least one store" in Baltimore on April 1, 1996 (Jeremy chose the name because he moved around so much in the label's early years). All 500 covers were printed by hand, using a typewriter, recycled paper, postcards, and found objects. The roommates' combined investment was $700. While Ben graduated college, Jeremy lasted there until Christmas 1997, before running out of money and dropping out.
In the ten years since that first single, Temporary Residence has released over 100 full-length albums, EP's, singles, reissues, and compilations, by artists in almost every conceivable iteration of popular and unpopular music today: folk rock, pop rock, instrumental rock, metal, hardcore, hip hop, electronica, experimental, free jazz, laptop music, ambient, even "classical." Of this 100, at least a majority could be described as noteworthy, accomplished, worthwhile listening; perhaps a quarter to a fifth could be called superlative or highly recommended; and a handful could be singled out as genuine masterpieces. For this listener, the last figure would include the San Francisco group Tarentel's From Bone to Satellite (TRR 23, 1999) and Ephemera (TRR 46, 2002); the British and American electronic trio Fridge's Happiness (TRR 43, 2001); Explosions in the Sky's The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (TRR 61, 2003); and the jewel of the TRL discography, Eluvium's ambient milestone Talk Amongst the Trees (TRR 78, 2005). In 2007, the label will release 15 more including, on February 20, what is probably the single most important and highly anticipated release of the label's history--the long-awaited follow-up to the Explosions album mentioned above, the four-years-in-the-making All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.
For the first five years of its existence, TRL was a part-time side project--an outlet for Jeremy to release records by friends and bands that he liked, when he wasn't busy working odd jobs or performing with his band, Sonna, which toured widely and released a number of outstanding albums and EP's on TRL. In 2001, with the band pondering its future, Jeremy decided to try devoting himself to the label full-time, out of his apartment, as his only source of income. He had good reason to be confident: at the time, he was issuing some of the finest albums in the label's catalog, many of them by artists that have come to define the TRL sound--Tarentel, Rumah Sakit, Cerberus Shoal, Sonna, Fridge, and a young band from Texas called Explosions in the Sky. Nevertheless, the experience was, in Jeremy's own words, "a disaster." To say that the label was losing money on the records it was releasing would be something of an understatement. Over the next year, Jeremy accumulated $10,000 in credit card debt and two to three times that in manufacturing and distribution debt, in addition to money owed to more or less every artist on the label. Sonna recorded one final album, the masterly Smile and the World Smiles With You (TRR 53, 2002), after which the band members moved, variously, to San Francisco, Wichita, and Kenya. In August 2002, Jeremy packed his bags for Portland, Oregon on the opposite coast and gave himself exactly one year to turn the fate of the label around.
The economics of the music industry--royalties, publishing, mechanicals, licensing, distribution, and the like--are famously byzantine, if not wholly inscrutable to the outsider. As in all for-profit business, though, it ultimately comes down to a simple and fundamental precept: in order to survive, your product has to bring in more money than you spend. For a record label, this means essentially releasing records that will sell and bring in more money than they cost to produce. In the case of a major label, then it's easy to understand why an executive would spend the money to release and promote an album with obvious commercial appeal, by someone like Justin Timberlake or Outkast which might conceivably sell a few million copies and bring in a great deal more in licensing and advertising. What's more difficult to understand is why a label would spend the money to release an album that it knows has limited, even marginal appeal, which might conceivably sell a thousand or two copies, or even fewer. Why go to the trouble and expense of releasing a record that a few hundred people will buy? Even more: why go to the trouble of releasing 100 of them?
To understand the role that labels such as TRL fill within the indie rock universe, and the music industry at large, it helps to know about the particular sound world that they have carved out for themselves and mostly come to create. To the extent that TRL has a name in the music community, it is typically esteemed as an art-for-art's-sake outfit, specializing in melodic, long-form, album-centered, intricately arranged, and largely instrumental rock. Such a reputation is only partly accurate. As of January 2007, TRL's roster includes the punishing Japanese hardcore band Envy; multi-instrumental hip-hop and electronic musicians such as Sybarite, Caroline, and Cex; singer-songwriter folk and indie pop by Rob Crow and Lazarus; angular, precise, jazz-inflected math rock by the likes of Sleeping People and Rumah Sakit; and the jumpy noise-jazz improvisation of Damsel. Nevertheless, to most indie rock devotees, TRL is synonymous with a very particular genre that has been given several names, none more adhesive and regrettable than the conventionally accepted "post-rock," which the critic Simon Reynolds once described as the "financially precarious but aesthetically vital" use of "rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures rather than riffs and power chords."
Post-rock traces much of its origins in sound and intention, first and foremost, to Pink Floyd--specifically, to the period beginning in 1970, with the symphonic arrangements of Atom Heart Mother and "Echoes" from the Meddle LP, culminating in 1975 and 1977's Wish You Were Here and Animals. As such, the genre hearkens back to the improbable moment in pop history when an album could comprise five songs, each averaging 15 minutes in length, and still sell five million copies. Post-rock's lineage would likewise include progressive, electronic, and classically-minded bands and artists such as Brian Eno, Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, This Heat, Talk Talk, Seefeel, Aphex Twin, My Bloody Valentine, Slint, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros. Most apropos to this story, it is also a genre that, in the mid-1990's, experienced a brief and surprisingly fervent renaissance, if not a new beginning altogether, with the emergence of international experimental rock acts such as the Scottish quintet Mogwai, the Chicago group Tortoise, and, most of all, the occasional 14-member Montreal collective Godspeed! You Black Emperor.
In the hierarchy of American independent labels then, TRL sits comfortably in what might be called the experimental second tier of the arena--a level below the perennial powerhouses of Merge, Matador, and Sub Pop, in terms of sales or the popularity of its larger roster, but widely known and respected as an outfit with a surplus of artistic and professional integrity. And indeed, an average businessman might wonder if TRL's self-imposed code of ethics were not being carried out to the label's detriment. Although common business sense would seem to suggest otherwise, TRL makes a point of working to promote all of its artists equally, without any seeming expectation that one will sell demonstrably better than the other. In other words, it spends just as much time and effort with albums that will probably sell no more than a thousand or two copies--Eluvium and Caroline and Miss Violetta Beauregarde, if not the majority of its roster--with the same belief and enthusiasm that it does to push the bands that sell fifty thousand copies: MONO and Explosions in the Sky. Although the TRL universe can reasonably be illustrated as a solar system of small satellites orbiting Explosions at the center, no one, it seems fair to say, feels as though they get anything less than full and fair treatment from Jeremy and the label. Perhaps the most revealing way to illustrate the arc and depth of the TRL universe then is to compare the smallest and largest of the thirty-odd satellites in its system: those being, respectively, Eluvium and Explosions in the Sky.
On the face of things, the lives and careers of Eluvium and Explosions in the Sky could not seem more different. The former is a reserved, retiring, soft-spoken composer by the name of Matthew Cooper who records melancholy, quasi-classical ambient music in his living room from the elements of piano, strings, horns, winds, and electronics. The latter is an agreeably ragtag and garrulous four-piece heavy-rock band from Texas, whose legendarily epic live shows can be likened, roughly, to the impact of a low-level nuclear device. Ask Eluvium to name some of his favorite musical artists and you are likely to hear a list including, variously, Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Mozart, Erik Satie, Glenn Gould, Rachel's, Max Richter, Sylvain Chauveau, Gavin Bryars, and Explosions in the Sky. Ask Explosions the same question and they will probably mention Jawbreaker, Nirvana, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., Bedhead, The Books, The Shins, Four Tet, Modest Mouse, American Analog Set, Wolf Parade and Eluvium. In the last three years, Temporary Residence has released five Eluvium records--three full-length albums and two EP's--which, in the United States, combined, have sold 4,000 copies. In about that same period of time, TRL released four albums by Explosions in the Sky--two full-length albums, one EP, and a reissue of their out-of-print CDR debut--which, together, have sold 100,000 copies. (this figure, incidentally, does not include the 25,000 sales of what is probably the band's most widely known music, that being their original soundtrack to the movie and later television drama Friday Night Lights).
Yet for all their many differences in sound and scale, Eluvium and Explosions are in fact deeply connected through an intimate bond of friendship, artistic vision, and mutual admiration. Between them, one could even say that they constitute the aesthetic nucleus of all the artists on the TRL label. What unifies their music is a shared concern with the outer boundaries of human feeling and experience--the timeless and universal cycle of tragedy, redemption, and hope--and the way that music can be made to reflect these phenomena in our lives. In Eluvium, this vision is likely to be expressed in the form of a somber, otherworldly meditation growing out of insistently repeating drones, textures, and disembodied fragments; in Explosions, it is the form of a gloriously deafening raid on the inarticulate--the grand, heroic, Beethovenian blast. When Explosions in the Sky went on tour to support their breakthrough 2003 release, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place--the album that made the band into the sort of name that people like Thom Yorke of Radiohead drop in interview--it was Eluvium that they asked to travel with and open for them. When Explosions returned to the stage this year and released the follow-up to that album, on February 20--having emerged on what was undoubtedly the defining moment of the band and the label to date--it was Eluvium, who also had a new album in stores that day, that they again took out with them. When I asked Chris Hrasky, the Explosions drummer, what his favorite TRL release was, he said, without hesitation, "Eluvium" (when I asked Matthew Cooper the same question over email, he replied, with characteristic reserve and concern for others' feelings: "that is hard to say").
More than any other event, it was the release of The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place that catapulted Temporary Residence from a struggling operation managed from Jeremy's kitchen table into what it is today (alone among artists on the TRL roster, Explosions has been able to support themselves entirely from touring and album royalties for a little over two years). By contrast, the Eluvium records are known mainly, if not exclusively, by a few hundred TRL obsessives and fans of ambient or experimental music. Nevertheless, at the TRL 10th anniversary party in September, one could be forgiven for wondering if the roles and status between the two didn't seem reversed. While Matthew sipped beer from a plastic cup and talked about his fondness for the pianist Artur Rubinstein, in particular his recordings of Chopin, you could hear the Explosions guys talking and gesturing in Matthew's direction from time to time, pointing him out for the people who came over to say hello: "That's the Eluvium genius right over there." Upon hearing this, Matthew looked deeply into his cup, with a look of mild consternation, and said, not for the first time, "Um." To judge by the direction in which the deference and adulation seemed to be flowing that night, one would think that it was the skinny nervous guy on the couch who had sold 100,000 records and almost single-handedly saved the label they were there to celebrate, not the other way around.
In 2002, Jeremy moved from Baltimore to Portland, Oregon, "for no particular reason other than a change of scenery." Once he got to town, he began to frequent a local record shop, and became friends with a young man who worked there named Matthew Cooper. Around the time Jeremy arrived in Portland, Matthew had finished writing and recording an album of gauzy, atmospheric, ambient music, in the vein of Brian Eno's Discreet Music and Music for Airports, which was made as the soundtrack to a stop-motion film by his girlfriend, Jeannie Paske. One day, Jeremy came into the record store and asked Matthew what he had been up to lately. Matthew happened to have a recording of the soundtrack with him and handed it over. A few weeks later, they crossed paths again. It was at this meeting that Jeremy told Matthew he wanted to release the CD he had given him, if Matthew was interested. That recording would go on to become Lambent Material (TRR 57), the debut Eluvium record, in May of 2003.
In one of my notebooks, I have a page whose contents read:"Words that come to mind to describe Eluvium: floating, glacial, cosmos, tundra, solar system, planets, the wind, the stars, the trees, the oceans, deserts, forests, valleys, cliffs. Cities awakening and sleeping. Continents illuminating and falling dark. Ice. Volcanoes. Sand in an hourglass. The bottom of the ocean. A sunset in the desert. Music for the end of time. Music for the beginning of time. Music beyond time."Imagine a recording device sent up into the heavens, or to the floor of the ocean, and then brought back to earth with a record of the sounds it heard there. This is what Eluvium sounds like. Imagine a scene in the middle of the desert, at night, or a frozen Arctic lake, or a mountaintop in the Himalayas. This is also what Eluvium sounds like. It is music that conjures images of barren, uninhabited landscapes, beyond the human footprint--music that paints pictures. It also has the rare quality of evoking in its listener the seemingly opposed qualities of acute melancholy and intense warmth. If the novels of Cormac McCarthy or the films of Ingmar Bergman were ever to be packaged with an appropriate soundtrack, that soundtrack would be composed by Eluvium (a note to any producers of IMAX films or National Geographic documentaries: look into Eluvium).
"I am very serious about music," says Matthew Cooper, by way of discussing the projects to which he has decided to work on over the coming few months. Coming from a professional musician, who supports himself, relatively speaking, by recording and performing his own original music, these words are not especially remarkable. Coming from someone in his mid-20's explaining why he is willingly going into several thousand dollars of debt to buy himself the time to produce his next piece of music, it becomes slightly more so.
Matthew Cooper was born in Tennessee and raised, like Jeremy, in Louisville, Kentucky. He describes himself as a person who enjoys being at home. "I can barely go to more than one place at a time before wanting to go home again first, to sort of regroup--e.g. grocery, home, bookstore, home, restaurant, home. Grocery, bookstore, restaurant, home does not work for me." Appropriately enough then, one could do worse than to describe Eluvium as music for staying at home. As one might infer from his music, Matthew is reserved, polite, and more than a little shy, but not in a painful way, unless you happen to be interviewing him for a story. As one might also infer, when he talks about music, especially his own, his language takes on a charmingly abstract and non-sequential tone. When I asked him, over e-mail, what he considered the most desirable setting for a performance or hearing of his music, he answered, "oh.... perhaps a low volume headphones walking with slight breeze leaves rustling trees bending light eclipsing sort of extra long dusk with intention type situation." When I asked him about his new album, Copia, and how it related to his earlier music, he wrote,"the new record is different by quite a stretch--there are lots of horns and strings and synths, and pianos , and organs... i'd like to offer references towards what i think it sounds like---but it probably only sounds that way to me, and i don't want to upset anyone---there are definately some nods to old cinematic soundtracks---some romance of the early film years, and some mellowness of the seventies---i thought i was going to be recording a liturgical sort of record--it didn't really turn out that way---but i'd like to take a stab at that again--to do some organ works would be nice…"According to Matthew, he settled on the name Eluvium by chance--"opening the dictionary and pointing." That he happened upon a term of geology whose dictionary definition reads "the detritus left by rock"--with all that that conveniently suggests about the history of rock music, and the matter of its health or decay--is either an unusual coincidence or a serendipitously hilarious joke. Characteristically, he says it is a little bit of both. Written out in musical terms, or in the critic's formulation, Eluvium's music is typically likened to a line of artists beginning with minimalist ambient masters such as Brian Eno, Terry Riley, and early Aphex Twin, continuing to the lush and feedback-heavy soundscapes of Seafeel, Fennesz, My Bloody Valentine, and Loscil. At the same time, you need only hear a few minutes of Eluvium's music to know how unhelpful those comparisons (and, for that matter, how most such comparisons) can be.
Eluvium is gradual music. It is not music with a clearly discernible beginning, middle, and end; it is, rather, music that concerns itself with space, imagery, texture, repetition, and drone. It is music for sustained and concentrated listening--something that takes form slowly. It is not music that will reveal itself in one listen, or even three or four listens. It is probably not music for when you have people over, nor even for when you are idling on the couch by yourself. It brings to mind the language and metaphorical images in Steve Reich's short essay "Music as a Gradual Process": something that happens "so slowly and gradually that listening to it resembles watching a minute hand on a watch--you can perceive it moving after you stay with it a little while," orpulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
turning over an hourglass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
placing your feet in the sand by the ocean's edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.
See Part II of this article
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