It seems as if I've been writing a lot about Seattle-based Dragon's Eye Recordings. But I don't feel bad about it, because the label, run by producer/visual artist Yann Novak, is staking out brilliant, fresh territory on a consistent basis. I can state unequivocally that nobody else in the city is doing what DER has accomplished in its brief history.
Some record labels choose to be rampantly eclectic (e.g., Ghostly International/Spectral Sound, Fabric, Leaf, FatCat, Mush). That approach is admirable, though it tends to make for wildly inconsistent catalogs. Other imprints favor the coherent, almost monolithic aesthetic (e.g., Perlon, M-nus, ~scape, Chain Reaction); when curated by an intelligent boss, such companies can produce works that resonate on a more profound level. It's as if each release complements and elaborates upon the others, so that they form a cogent thesis statement that becomes reinforced with each new entry in the discography. DER is firmly in the second camp under discussion. Novak says the label "stands as an outlet for the unusual, celebrating diverse media content and fosters an environment where artists are provided an alternative platform to release, develop, and promote exciting projects and creative excursions."
To celebrate its first anniversary, DER is releasing the Paper compilation and hosting two nights of live performances at Gallery 1412 on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. These weekend gigs will showcase all six artists who appear on Paper.
Novak himself leads off the comp with "Basilica di S. Maria Aracoeli," a warm, subliminally morphing drone that sounds as if it were channeled from a massive seashell and then blended with the underwater prayers of Buddhist monks. Son of Rose's "Reunion" gradually builds in intensity to a pebbledashed drone and tidal wash, and then finishes with a devastating bass frequency. On "Unfold," Wyndel Hunt explores the infinitesimal particles of sound that compose the never-ending hum of the universe—or perhaps he's just mutating with a vengeance the start-up sound of Apple computers. Either way, it's damned riveting.
Tyler Potts's "Still Happening" is a symphony of smeared bell tones and distorted bleeps that becomes increasingly frenzied as it progresses, until it's overcome with a remarkably tranquil, wavering airplane-engine drone. "Drum and Ghost" by Portland's Heavy Lids could be an opiated new track by Windy & Carl, with its ectoplasmic guitar meekly wailing over beats that pop like distant fireworks—very languid and liquid. Closing out the hour-long disc is Ear Venom's "Smasher & the Harar Horse," a mesmerizing, lo-fi procession that recalls Nurse with Wound's factory-shop desolation.
The music DER champions will likely appeal only to a small fraction of the population. But for those who appreciate musicians finding creative ways to stain the canvas with rarefied drones and unusual textures within a minimalist context, DER is becoming a rich source of sonic stimuli.
More info: www.dragonseyerecordings.com