Loren Connors: Red Mars
Published: August 31, 2011
The rabbit hole that is the Loren Connors catalog is an impressive one indeed. Between his Jandekian “pre-discovery” years and the years since his mid-’90s introduction to Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke and Thurston Moore and subsequent relative renown, the innerspace-traveling guitarist has put out roughly 50 records. You could spend the next couple of years with Connors’ solo recordings alone, and in much the same way one might fall into the Fahey hole. It’s remarkable how a musical aesthetic—some nongenre orbiting around avant-garde folk music, performed solo on guitar—that might appear so singular can expand so well within its own limits. Which is so much the remarkable thing about the whole of Fahey’s base style, “American primitivism”—how small technical expansions on the part of the player can become so much bigger once inside the listener.
Connors, of course, doesn’t sound very much like Fahey. His music is electric and effected into deep space. It’s nearly the inverse of a raga; instead of thick melodic patterns, we’re given single notes that travel unnatural distances at the behest of reverb and delay, and then seem to pull in and out of their own haunted tonal cloud. Off the bat on Red Mars, Connors’ first full-length since 2004, opener “On Our Way” gives us something almost breathtakingly intense, courtesy of extreme minimalism. Wide open space, the sort of musical emptiness that feels supernaturally dark, gives way to builds of guitar (and possibly cello accompaniment, on this first track only) that feel like slow-motion bolts. Neck hairs are promised to stand on end. See also “Showers of Meteors,” in which Connors taps the more left-field side of modern classicism in uneasy, detuned repetitions—and in a particularly deep reverb cave to boot. The hairs come up again on closer “Little Earth,” so seemingly simple, so stirringly pretty in a way that just teases discomfort.
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