A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Portland’s Eternal Tapestry blend the pastoral and the technological, on their first ever double-LP, for psych juggernauts Thrill Jockey.
For their newest, sprawling soundwork for Chicago’s Thrill Jockey, Eternal Tapestry removed themselves from civilization – sequestering themselves in a remote cabin, in Zigzag, Oregon, with an arsenal of synths, psychedelic guitar stompboxes, a cassette 8-track to capture wild, unwieldy jams, and 700 Phish bootlegs to tape over. Their days were spent traversing the terrain, with nights reserved for stargazing.
Wild Strawberries beautifully captures this sense of idyllic wonder and wanderlust, with every song being named after some local flora. It does not, however, sound like what you might expect from such a work of herbology and exploration.
Here, Eternal Tapestry imagine a piece of revisionist history, if Terry Riley‘s In C or Persian Surgery Dervishes, La Monte Young, or Angus Maclise had been as popular as the Velvet Underground’s drone rock, which they helped inspire. Wild Strawberries revolves around a nucleus of stately, ritualistic percussion, prismatic synth and organ grooves, with flying, headmelting psych wah guitar soaring overhead, all of which is held together with the luxurious, rich warmth of the bass.
Each song on Wild Strawberries seems to be an ecosystem unto itself, with the players exploring the intricate possibilities of the terrain. Songs groove and coast along, like a kind of futuristic raga, like Can jamming in an ashram. The songs don’t necessarily built to some central climax, having one arc like a post-rock cliche; instead, each is a journey of exploration, with moments of wild excitement and inspiration, like unearthing some fluorescent fungi beneath a log, or stumbling across some polished turquoise in the lichen.
There is a certain sentiment, among the journos and tastemakers and cognoscenti, that automatically dismisses anything “droney”, any kind of sound art or soundscape, as being talentless, forgettable, dismissive, claiming that every piece of art needs a narrative, some story to hang the human element on. While i agree, and it is entirely too possible to churn out meaningless drone ephemera with nothing to say, the danger in this way of thinking is that it reduces what kind of stories we have to tell. I admire experimental or psychedelic musicians aspirations to harness the pop formula – the verse/chorus/verse refrain, as much as I admire Joseph Campbell and his hero’s journey archetype.
The problem with this kind of narrative is that it’s always RUSHING, always MOVING, the CLIMAX being the only point, with a bit of graceful denouement only as a condescension for the sentimental. It’s all about the BATTLE, the BLOODLETTING, the BIG FINALE.
It is this way of thinking that keeps the steel wheels of capitalism rolling along, towards the next big purchase, the next climax. We must always be looking ahead, building to some central point or motif.
We can’t simply STOP AND LOOK AROUND.
Thank the elder gods, that is not the way we do things in Portland, Oregon. We value our time and our space here, actively cultivating the freedom to explore our lives, our selves, our surroundings.
Eternal Tapestry are quintessentially Portland, but not in a superficial or stereotypical way. This is what Portland’s Mystery School sounds like, what many of us secretly value, but don’t speak out loud or spread to the public. It is atavistic and nature worshipping, while being entirely technological and futuristic. In fact, just the other day, I found out that some people call Portland “the silicon forest“, because of our ecology as well as our technology.
All of this, unbeknownst to me, when i began to sense a certain seismic rumble, a certain scent of pollen and blood and pot smoke and solder and semen on the breeze, that has resulted in this cultural ramble.
So for anyone who’s seeking of trying to keep up, sick of the “progress”, the mock heroic gestures. For those who want to walk around and look at stuff, explore their own environments and imagine new ones, Wild Strawberries is essential listening. It’s long, but its 4 sides go down SO SMOOTH, perfect for repeat flipping.
This is what Portland really sounds like.
For fans of: Terry Riley, Klaus Schulze, Bardo Pond, Emeralds, Plankton Wat
Eternal Tapestry – Wild Strawberries