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David Daniell - Coastal

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Artist: David Daniell

Album: Coastal

Label: Xeric

Review date: Jan. 9, 2007

While it’s risky to place too much importance on label affiliation, it bears pointing out that David Daniell is just the sort of polymath that tends to gravitate to Table Of The Elements (Xeric is a TOTE sub-label). Like Jim O’Rourke, Michael Morley, Tony Conrad, or Arnold Dreyblatt, he’s the sort of guy who might be willing to sound one note for a very long time, but refuses to let any one sound dominate his aesthetic.

Coastal is his second album under his own name, and while it features some of the same instruments and methods that he’s employed with his trio San Agustin or on his first solo CD Sem, it doesn’t sound much like them. Like his debut, Coastal is the result of intensive electronic manipulation on non-electronic sounds; but where the first disc surrounds discrete audio elements with expanses of silence, this one marshals them into something much more detailed and eventful. “Whelk” commences with digitally pixilated cymbal shivers, which then accumulates speck of clingy static and shudders of metal like a strong magnet thrust into an ironworker’s shop. Daniell’s electronic manipulations render sounds derived from a drum kit into a sequence of events that are positively orchestral in their range of colors. The palette of sounds on the 26-minute centerpiece “Palmetto” is more mechanical, evoking synthetic chimes and buzzing helicopters, although it’s anyone’s guess where the sounds originally came from.

“Sunfish’s” rejoinder of layered acoustic guitars comes as quite a shock, but also serve to remind that Daniell has held his own in six-string settings with partners as disparate as Loren Connors and Rhys Chatham. The languid pedal steel guitar lines that twist around each other like serpents on a doctor’s staff near the piece’s end also suggest that this long-time northern resident (NYC, Chicago) hasn’t forgotten his southern roots. It all comes together on “Glasswort,” where the guitar flickers in and out of hearing over the flocks of electronic dust particles that fly toward wavering low-end drones. When the last strummed notes rise out of the crackling foliage, the effect is as comforting as the first sight of the longed-for coast must be for bird that’s long been beating its wings toward its migratory goal. Simultaneously naturalistic and virtual, Coastal offers the patient listener a rich world of sound.

By Bill Meyer

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