A fellow music critic recently e-mailed me saying, “the descent of all this 'experimental' music into new age…is…NOT a good thing.” The two records he cited as examples of this “pretentious crap” were Black Dice's Beaches and Canyons and this new split CD featuring two extended pieces: one from the New York duo Growing, and the other from modern pianist Mark Evan Burden. Growing's track, “Firmament,” is a 19-minute snail-slow burn consisting of three heavy, interpenetrating layers of undulating, smoothly rippling cosmic-electronic frequencies. Through the employment of guitars, electronics, and massive amplification, Growing has sculpted the low-end sonic rumble of doom metal into a pristine, almost icy soundscape reminiscent of Eno's New Age-defining Ambient series. Burden's contribution, the 15-minute composition for piano and electronics titled “10/24/02,” complements Growing's because — although Burden pounds those ivories — his chief concern is generating expansive resonances via the precise execution of repetitive, geometric clusters of sparkling piano notes. Both pieces are quite excellent and both do, indeed, feel rather, hmm, “New Agey.” (My wife actually performs yoga to “Firmament.”) Then again, I don't believe New Age music (or any other music for that matter) is by definition shitty music closed to experimentation. Challenging art can be created from ANYTHING.
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