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Destined: Growing

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Dusted wrestles with the inability to pin down this exciting trio from Olympia, Washington.

Destined: Growing

Tantalus was a rather decadent son of Zeus, the supreme being in Greek mythology. The boy, a mortal, often bragged of dining with the gods and sharing their secrets with the likes of men. This ultimate act of namedropping earned him an unenviable afterlife, chin-deep in a lake with succulent fruit hanging just above his head – not an archetypal depiction of Hell to be sure, but there was a sadistic twist to this playboy’s stanchion. When Tantalus tried to touch his lips to the water, it would recede or vanish. When he opted for the fruit, the wind would blow the branch out of his reach. Stuck forever at arm’s length, Tantalus was the first human to be “tantalized”.

Listening to Growing, a temperamental trio from Olympia, Washington, I find myself in the same position as Tantalus. Reach for an initial word, a label – say, Doom Metal – then watch as the demonic guitars slowly morph into demonstrative bliss. Drone may come a bit closer to the truth, but only slightly, as silence plays an equally significant role in the proceedings. Alas, Growing’s anomalous sound dwells in perpetual nigh-fidelity, permeating the gaps between equalizer settings with evasive intent, frustrating any attempt at optimization, and therefore, classification.

A visit to the band’s website www.growingsound.com furthers the equivocal mystique via the tried-and-true less-is-more method. No bios, no live pictures, no sounds – nothing to aid our insatiable desire to assimilate Growing into the current lexicon of albums, bands, or genres. Only an e-mail address and two streams of overlapping lines that subtly hint at Growing’s ebb and flow between suffocation and grace.

Growing is Joe Denardo, Kevin Doria, and Eryn Ross. Denardo and Doria arrived at Growing after a brief time self-destructing in the hardcore Black Man White Man Dead Man. Denardo moved from suburban Chicago to attend Evergreen College and worked with Zack Carlson to operate the irreverent Thin the Herd record label, which released early material from Total Shutdown and Vaz. Doria brought the slo-mo aesthetics of his former sludge group 1000 A.D. to BMWMDM, which helped facilitate Growing’s inception in late 2001. The group’s first recording was an untitled 7” on Nail in the Coffin Records that sounds more like Melvins than their latest full-length The Sky’s Run Into the Sea on Kranky, and far from the gritty pop usually associated with the Washington capital.

“We don’t go to many shows anymore,” Denardo wrote in an e-mail. “Not very many people come to see us play, although those that do have been very loyal throughout the years. Every [city] certainly has an element that isn’t obvious to the rest of the world.”

When asked to describe Growing’s creative process, Denardo fittingly responded in vague terms. “We just play what sounds right and what we like,” he said. “The sounds are idea-based. ‘Cognitive patience’ is a great way to describe it. We try to let our brains rest a bit, whether ‘composing’ or playing.

“Our influences would include those like Cage and Feldman, but also lots of traditional folk/voice, regular bands, etc. It’s a vast pool, right, because we obviously love music a lot.”

The band’s live show, which visits Sin-é in New York City on Friday Dec. 12 (along with Oneida and Young People), is an extreme experience, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into “loud.”

“We try and represent as wide an array of amplitude as possible,” Denardo said. “That dynamic is important to us. Since we make a lot of pictures, sometimes we’ll integrate that into a live show – it seems so related to us and the environments we’re trying to construct. All kinds of people seem to like our music…and a whole lot find themselves outside very soon after we start.”

The Sky’s Run Into the Sea isn’t quite as intimidating; in fact, the drawn-out performances, three of which eclipse the 14-minute mark, tilt toward serenity more often than not. While attentive listening is ideal, and essential to grasping Growing’s serendipitous beauty, the album can also thrive in a supporting role. Kranky king-pins Joel Leoschke and Bruce Adams first caught wind of the band by way of Fontanelle keyboardist Paul Dickow, who performs improvisational electronics as Strategy. After playing a show with Growing, he sent word back east of the band’s quadraphonic live set-up. After a few e-mails, the deal was done.

“We recorded the record with a friend, so the atmosphere was very laid back and cheap,” Denardo said. “This was long before Kranky decided to put it out. It took place over three months, but mostly because of equipment failure. Since it was winter, it rained a lot. We didn’t try to ‘sound different,’ but we’re just not very inspired by most of our peers’ music, so why emulate what you don’t like?”

The band has an album’s worth of new demos already recorded and plenty of releases scheduled in the coming months. “We’re trying to tour this year; maybe the UK, US, and Europe. There’s a ton of recordings coming out relatively soon: A 2xTape and tour tapes reissue on Animal Disguise Records, a split CD/LP with M. Evan Burden on Heroine Records (Italy), and we’re working on a bunch of new stuff for the next record. We just finished a project for continuous 2-channel video and multi-channel sound installation with our friend Lisa Darms. Just trying to keep busy.”

No matter what fruits result from their recent labors, Growing are sure to keep the rest of us busy as well, confounding us in tantalizing fashion as we struggle to make sense of a sound without paradigm.

By Otis Hart

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