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Joe Evans: Ecliptic Plane

August 15, 2012

Here comes Joe Evans again to make my head spin, both with sound and subject: “Each track [on Ecliptic Plane] came about through a combination of examining the properties of the subjects and a series of mathematical music experiments conducted in parallel.” Oh, and for one track, “…the musical scale was derived directly from the frequency ratios of the orbits of the titular objects…” Okay, then. Not only do you get that bit of higher thinking, but the disc itself comes with a booklet with diagrams of the relationships and formulae involved. But what about the music? In a word, diverse. Evans re-examines his equations and inspirations on each track. The opener, “Receding Sun,” storms in as a big, aggressive drone on the edge of feedback before widening and softening to a stripped-down wash. Its follow-up, “Resonant TNOs,” is a reflective piano-only piece that takes its vocabulary from the ratios that define the movement of Trans-Neptunian Objects. Here it feels like Evans is patiently following the course the cosmos has dictated, the space between notes like waiting for the arrival of fresh information. It’s a very intimate piece that, despite running 10 minutes, never feels repetitive or lacking in feeling. The subtle shifts in approach keep it engaging. The title track moves through a constantly evolving set of spaces, switching guise as the numbers dictate. It moves from deep, unwavering drones to static-spattered spaces where radio voices leak into the room. The shifts can be abrupt, but they all work. And then there’s “Oort Cloud,” which must (and this is mandatory!) be given a deep listen to take in all the ultra-minute sonic details Evans packs into it. Focusing may be hard, as the main body of “Oort Cloud” is a magnificently hypnotic repeating pulse that quite simply wipes all traces of conscious thought from your mind. There’s deeper math at work, but what matters is the engrossing result of the equation. The closing track, “Approaching Sun,” returns to the drone construct that opens the disc, making for a perfect circle of sound.

As I’ve said before, the ideas behind the releases from Runningonair can be very heady. It’s a math-based label, intent on applying unique generative criteria to composition. More often than not, it works. And as the man behind the label, Joe Evans is rather in a spot where he needs to be the one making it work well. Ecliptic Plane is a shining example of what Runningonair is trying to put forth–deep-concept music that draws listeners in.

Available from Runningonair.

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