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Glass Museum

Angus Maclaurin
Glass Music
(Bubble Core Records)

It's hard to not picture Angus Maclaurin as some sort of mad scientist after reading about the premise for this release. Recording everything in his basement in Maine, Maclaurin created all the sounds on this release solely with finely tuned glass. Save two tracks (one of which contains some theremin and kalimba while another contains a touch of bass guitar), all the sounds were made from striking, rubbing, touching, brushing, and who knows what else with glass. Everything was recorded to tape reels and sequenced and what the listener is left with is probably the organic trance album of the year.

Although it runs a slight bit long (but that can possibly be said of most trance-like releases), Glass Music is a very interesting release, especially when you consider the source material. At times, the sounds produced are soothing, while at other times they're a bit haunting (and actually, most of the album has sort of a desolate, slightly foreboding feel to it), and interestingly enough the album reminds one of the sea when listening to it. Direct association to this water-like feel is direct in that several songs have names that are related to the sea, but also perhaps part of that feel can be attributed to the technicality that glass is a liquid.

The disc opens with "Fugue" and on the track Maclaurin somehow manages to create the feeling that you're either in a cathedral while a chorus of bells is playing or surrounded by windchimes of varying shapes and sizes that are clanging together in a very nice way. Little bits of melodies fall together here and there, and the track builds upon itself until you're wrapped up in the multiple layers of chiming. The next two tracks ("4th of July Part 1 and 2") take on a much darker tone, as they mainly forgo the chiming in favor of very subtle layers of slightly shifting tones. They sound like what you might hear if you had your ear to the hull of a submarine as it drifted along through a deep channel, the sounds of the outside creeping in over the steady purr of the engines.

"Drunken Nightmare" continues the trend of slightly creepy sounds, mixing some off-key, minor chimes over a swirling soft tonal haze into something that sounds like the exact aural equivalent of the track title. The album as a whole is really sort of a combination of the wavering glass tones and the chimes that one would get from tapping the side of varying sizes and shapes of glasses. Although it sounds like there isn't a whole lot that could be done with basically two different ways to make noise with the glass, it's really surprising how well that Maclaurin keeps things interesting over the course of the 70-minute plus album. Granted, this isn't a release that's for everyone. It will simply be too repetitive for many, or not sonically "interesting enough," but there's something almost otherworldy about what Maclaurin has put together and if you're a person who finds pleasure in minimal composers like Philip Glass or Steve Reich (or releases like Dutch Harbor: Where The Sea Breaks Its Back by the Boxhead Ensemble or last years Self-Titled release by the Shalabi Effect), this is definitely something you'll want to check out. Granted, it's just one guy in his basement with a lot of glass and tape, but as I mentioned in the first paragraph, it's still quite engrossing (and I imagine that it will be even more so as the weather turns colder).

Rating: 7.25