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Memorize the Sky - Creeks

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Artist: Memorize the Sky

Album: Creeks

Label: Broken Research

Review date: Jun. 23, 2011

Memorize the Sky’s Aaron Siegel, Zach Wallace, and Matt Bauder are typically credited as playing percussion, bass and reeds, respectively. But those general designations hardly hint at what Creeks has got going on. On the band’s third full-length (and its first slab of vinyl), the instrumentation is listed on their web site as electronics, flute, bells, processed bass and bongos. That’s a novel roster of ingredients if I’ve ever seen one, the sort of oddball assortment that in the wrong hands could lead to all sorts of tiresome wackiness and unrelenting goofball clatter. Thankfully, Memorize the Sky don’t have those hands. Creeks is idiosyncratic improvisation that reeks of mindfulness, patience, and restraint. Those in search of kitchen sink craziness can keep on walking. This platter packs its share of surprises, but they’re not of that sort.

Since their inception in the 1990s, Memorize the Sky have been an acoustic trio, so the electronics and processing on Creeks are a noteworthy addition. These newfangled toys make their presence felt most conspicuously in the space-age bird calls and cosmic arcs on side A. The processed bass aligns itself with percussion that feels like sporadic drops of water, its rhythmic presence felt in the dampened patter and gentle bounce of bow on strings. Bauder’s flute, the star of side B, is largely unadulterated in tone, though it, too, flirts with technology, its tones ending with fluttering tails of delay. The electronics are handled tastefully for the most part, more augmented seasoning than in-your-face flavor, their addition to the band’s sound handled with the care that marks their improvisatory dialogue.

Creeks has its more melodious moments, especially on side 2 where an opening duet between bells and flute hints at a new age exposition. Even as the track moves along, Bauder’s flute slips in sonorous segments, its air of mystery by far Creeks most evocative bit of atmosphere. The flute sits up front, and the electronics squeal and squiggle in the spotlight at times, but the album is more memorable for its textural whole than it is for any one player’s contribution.

This is a band that sounds like they’ve been playing together for over a decade, their improvisations modestly and unfussily executed. What’s most enjoyable is not the distinctiveness of their music, but how natural and straightforward it feels. Have I mentioned that there are bongos? And that they don’t sound cheesy for a single second? That’s an achievement in and of itself.

By Adam Strohm

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