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Growing / Mark Evan Burden - Split CD

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Artist: Growing / Mark Evan Burden

Album: Split CD

Label: Zum

Review date: May. 25, 2005

At first, Growing and Mark Evan Burden seem like a bafflingly incompatible pair. Growing’s style is to billow massive grey clouds of ebb/flow drone, while Burden specializes in dense, restless compositions of busy, dizzy motion and action. In fact, judging from their back catalogues, they seem less different than they do just downright opposite.

But the Bay Area’s savvy Zum has a keen ear, and for some reason saw fit to conjoin the two on a split CD. And this was clearly a wise thing to do, as the artists’ strange similarities become audibly (and awesomely) apparent upon listening to their pieces back to back. Growing and Burden’s methods, and basic approach, share very little in common, but there’s an intense affinity between their intent. They may be using markedly different weapons, but both seem to be aiming in the same general direction.

“Firmament,” Growing’s track, is unreal. A huge, heavy, endless ecosystem of a song, the piece breathes and evolves for 19 mesmerizing minutes of soft, deep ocean currents and gentle, night sky rumblings. It’s limitless like astronomy ambience, the perfect soundtrack for footage of slow-motion comets and shifting constellations. Apparently it was culled from the sessions for their second record, The Soul of Light and the Harmony of the Rainbow. As such a hyperbolically beautiful title might suggest, Growing were definitely on a positive kick at the time, only exploring tones of total tranquility. This is new new-age.

Burden’s composition is equally unabashed in its pursuit of supreme, sweeping, organic beauty, but his means are coarser, more recognizable, more human. Flurries of piano collapse into sharp silences, while scurrying feedback loops bleed into the background, hissing, then fading. All instrumental, and almost classically arranged, the obliquely named “10/24/02” verges on the baroque in its grandeur, patience and scope. Clocking in at 16 minutes, Burden dances the piece through at least six movements, and every bridge is masterfully executed, cloaked in warm spells of calm, or hidden in the stately reverberations of deep ivory keys. An unpredictable, somewhat unbelievable work of modern chamber music, Burden achieves Growing’s lofty, universal intensity, but through more personal, man-made means. As a lot of hack philosophers (and hippies) are fond of saying, it's the journey, not the destination, that matters most. And that's sort of the case here, too. Each artist ultimately arrives at a rare, bold, and uniquely epic place, but their methods of getting there are nothing alike. So go both ways.

By Britt Brown

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