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Growing - The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light

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Artist: Growing

Album: The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light

Label: Kranky

Review date: Oct. 19, 2004

Much like the Stars of the Lid, Total, and others before them, the duo of Kevin Doria (bass and guitar) and Joe Denardo (guitar) creates heavy sounds using feedback, hiss and static. Growing are known for the extreme volume of their live shows, but unfortunately that sort of volume and density is difficult to achieve on album, and it shows here. Without the assistance of sheer sonic mass, what remains on their sophomore album is just a bit too close to New Age for comfort.

Ambience is a much-abused word, and has come to encompass more than it should, but is nearly inescapable when talking about The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light. Ultimately, Growing are worrying more about sound than song. The danger when working in this area is that communicating via pure sound is a difficult task, really far more so than with instrumental songs. And if the sounds don't communicate, then they are ultimately meaningless. Whether they take the listener on a journey, or leave them feeling a certain way, the sounds need to start and end somewhere definite and touch the listener along the way. Growing's new album doesn't manage to consistently follow through on that ideal.

The 18-minute opener "Onement" is a case in point, droning on seemingly unchanged for most of its length. When cranked way up, some form can be discerned, but it remains more or less like the soundtrack for a Nova special on astronomy. If this were given the benefit of live volume, no doubt additional overtones would add personality to the proceedings, but without it, we're left with a rather turgid lump of sound. Towards the end, a mass of static resembling a cymbal wash turns up, but ultimately doesn't take us anywhere.

"Anaheim II" fares much better. Originally recorded for a split release that didn't materialize, at only seven minutes it has the advantage of brevity. In addition, it contains elements of individuality and just enough change to maintain interest. More complex texture, akin to early Total material, means that detailed listening is rewarded, while the vaguely rhythmic component also provides a feeling of motion.

The remaining two pieces unfortunately don't, for the most part, keep things at that level. "Epochal Reminiscence" seems to aim for drama, but suffers from a rather thin production and apparently random shifts of sustained notes. Everything adds up to a collection of sounds without a coherent message or reason behind them. "Primitive Associations / Great Mass Above" starts with birdsong, always a bad sign for "ambient" music, with waves of crystalline sounds ebbing and flowing. Towards the end the duo finish with shimmering high-end tones that are quite nice, but it's too little too late.

By Mason Jones

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His Return

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