A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Portland avant-guitarist William Hardy takes us on a journey through the U.S.’ collective subconscious on American Abstraction.
Yr about to embark out into the outlying spaces, and there is where you meet people who have been out there, and they run the machines that go out there, and you haven’t been there
- “Joe” – Eaton Flowers
Sometimes to see things clearly, you must navigate the margins. It can be difficult to maintain perspective when completely immersed, like the proverbial fish in the water.
So, how would one go about summing up the etheric United States, such a layered and varied topic?
This is exactly what experimental guitarist and electronic composer William Hardy tries to achieve with American Abstraction. It’s like hopping aboard Epcot Center’s people mover and taking a tour through 239 years of history.
Except this is not the history that makes it into the books. This is like the sub-history, the moldering receipts on the side of the road; bad, burned-out, low budget made-for-TV movies from the 1980s; half a dozen Westerns, stacked on top of each other until they lose all sense and semblance of sanity.
American Abstraction is constructed like a DJ mixtape, one continuous flow, which lends itself to the people mover analogy. Sometimes “songs” – read, words, melodies, samples, organized sounds – rise from the murk of delirious glistening newage guitars, glitched-out noise, and abstracted beats that range from thudding, headnodding hiphop to skittering, scattered techno.
When i first listened to American Abstraction i thought it was swearing allegiance to avant beat sculptors like L.A.’s Leaving Records. Eaton Flowers is a part of the SDMPDX crew, who already have one beat-munging breakcore maniac with Consumer, so i thought this was just more MPC-worshipping beat bricolage. No problem here, i love that shit!
Imagine my surprise when i found out that Eaton Flowers is solely and exclusively comprised of guitar, except for when Hardy’s joined by Eric Gibbons on sonorous upright bass, on “American Abstraction” and “Discord And This Chord”, a particular stand out moment, if you can’t call it a song.
It’s encouraging, to here a compelling mixture of future beats, newage synths, and experimental guitars. I haven’t really heard anyone pushing the guitar forward too much since when Emeralds were first blowing people’s minds, and even then, the concept of live looping was not revolutionary. Mark McGuire just happened to be particularly good at it.
American Abstraction, if you can imagine it, is a lot like what it might be like if Buckethead, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Ras G were to get together (which sounds completely awesome and utterly terrifying, simultaneously). For me, i liked this record to begin with, being someone who grew up with the detritus of American pop trash culture, and i am always excited to see someone transmuting the trash into gold and diamonds. It’s also encouraging to see someone reinvigorating post-rock, blending rock instrumentation with unusual structure and textures, ultimately creating new stories that have never been told before.
American Abstraction has never been told before. It is not immediately clear, from the surface, what William Hardy’s mission was, what he was trying to say with this record. It’s the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock action-splatter painting, a Kandinsky canvas of abstract shapes, colors, and textures, which spring to life with flying devil fish inside yr mind, over a herd of stampeding buffalo, while the sky is the color of television, tuned to a dead station.
For anybody that digs adventurous guitar music, abstract instrumental hip-hop, and otherworldly sound sculptures, frequently at the same time, you need to check this one out!
SDMPDX are consistently making some of the most adventurous and experimental music in our fair city of roses and bridges. The collective is getting some momentum in town, but i’m not sure to what extent that the rest of the world knows yet. It’s part of our mission statement to show the world there’s more than rich, entitled indie hipsters in this city, more than cleanshaven indie rock. So spread the word and tell yr friends!