I first encountered the music of Damian Valles about 5 or 6 years ago. At the time, he was still playing drums in the very impressive math-rock trio I Can Put My Arm Back On You Can’t and had recently ventured into his own solo electronic output as Greater Explosives. The packaging, in particular, on the Greater Explosives album, The Construction Of This Is The Destruction Of That had a great impact on me (designed, I believe, by Standard Form, the collective responsible for this new release), but I digress. I’ve really lost track of his output since then, however, so it was with great delight that I saw this 3″ CD-R in my review pile, meaning I could catch back up.
And a wonderful catch-up it is, too. Moving on from Greater Explosives’ completely digital sound palette, the three tracks on this 21 minute disc explore guitar improvisation with post-processing, field recordings and percussion added to give layers of sonic and emotional depth. The opening 13 minute ‘Low Population Density’ builds a simple, repetitive riff to epic proportions, hinting at a recall of I Can My Arm Back On You Cant’s guitar texture without becoming at all aggressive or indeed urgent, just grand. It could be argued that ‘Swale’s lead instrument is the reverb unit, as booming percussive hits spiral away chasing the tails of guitar taps and deep ambient washes. ‘Minor Variance’ establishes a reversed guitar loop foundation over which Valles layers melodic and harmonic atmosphere, the processing, while still subtle, more obvious than elsewhere. Gentle forward momentum is produced by quiet cymbal work. And then it’s over. And, as a good artist wants to leave his audience, you want more.
The release is the first in a proposed series of ‘ambient, experimental electronic, modern compositional, electro-acoustic and field recording’ releases aimed at being snapshots of time or place represented in the music. Valles’ release aims to document his recent move from an urban to rural environment. It does so beautifully, evoking space and isolation and, for me particularly, the still darkness of night time in the countryside. He has set a high standard for the series to follow.