Paragaté are the duo of Tom DePlonty and Tim Risher, but Paragaté releases are not simply DePlonty and Risher collaborations. Rather, the two each have a couple of solo pieces and then there are the duets. On their new release, The World Above Us, each half gets two spotlight moments, and we are treated to five full-on Paragaté tunes. The work ranges from borderline ambient to complex experiments. DePlonty’s solo offerings are “Sail When the Wind Allows” and “Wheel.” The first comes close to being a drone-based piece. Softly undulating rolls of sound massage your brain for eight minutes as bass chords shift slowly in the background to form a sense of motion and narrative. The second is a primer on DePlonty’s technically pure and compositionally intriguing piano playing. It lands in a perfect spot between neo-classical and jazz, notes scurrying back and forth from border to border, brushing the edge of atonality in spots before easing back. The spatial mastering on this track is excellent as well, making the notes ping-pong from ear to ear at just the right times. Risher also has two solos here. “Clouds Not Sky” is a great ambient piece. Loops of sound spin their way around manipulated vocal samples. The feel is light and airy, but the busyness of the samples off-set that ease. The title track, his other standalone piece, is a gorgeous drift that floats and sails, accented with soft and lyrical touches of piano. There’s a lot of activity in the synth work even as it exhales its way down to quiet. Together the two revisit a 20-year-old piece, “Cork on the Waves,” which also appeared on the Gnosis release, reviving it with new instrumentation and a different recitative. I asked Risher about this. He replied that “It was interesting to revisit something we did twenty years ago, using completely different equipment and recorded in a very different way, to see what would happen. We changed the chord progressions in the different sections as well, to make it flow more convincingly, and we believe it’s more musically satisfying.” Now, I quite liked the original, but must agree that there’s a more refined sense to this one. It’s softer and more certain and pulls the listener in deep. The voice is Theodore Edison, discussing his father’s “Monoid Theory.” (Let it be noted that you’ll always get a bit of intellectual headiness coming into a Paragaté effort.) Two tracks here stand out for being just plain fun. “Ground Effect,” the closer, is a clubby, thumping uptempo piece with a little retro, near-disco twang to it. You’ll be bopping along with this one–even in the places where it feels like Risher and DePlonty are challenging you with brief, wayward changes in tempo. They’d feel like mis-steps if they weren’t so purposeful. “Where To Find Food” wrangles a Rush Limbaugh sound bite into an upbeat, plunderphonic-inspired commentary on media.
This is the most accessible Paragaté release I’ve listened to. Gnosis and Stillness in the Mirror took some getting used to, but The World Above Us makes the listener welcome from the start. There’s still a lot to dig into–Risher and DePlonty are hardcore experimenters, often applying terms of chance or mathematical abstraction to their compositions. But here they seem more intent on letting listeners in, making them comfortable, and allowing the depth of the sound do the work.
Available from Camerata at Bandcamp.