Languid and evocative, multi-instrumentalist/arranger/composer Aaron Roche’s Cyclocardoray soundtracks the momentary breaths in life, a memory recalled or a flash of beauty revealed in our aimless forward tumbling. Smoother and calmer than 2010’s Plainspeak, these two songs begin as direct, folky ideas delivered with a deadpan. What makes them interesting is how they then swell full with layers of overlapping instruments, harmonic suspensions, and distortion.
“Cyclocardoray” finds Roche collaborating with R. Stevie Moore (who I have never heard in such an “orchestral” context). Roche opens with a ringing guitar arpeggio run through a cranked chorus pedal, letting the common-tone progression blur into near stasis. The strings, entering after the first chorus and expanding into close tone clusters, start pushing things forward. By the bridge, their upward swinging tremolos are sonically twisted into synth noise blots like interstellar Mario power-ups.
Roche partners with another musical polyglot, Shahzid Ismaily, for “Synthessiah”. The timbres here wrap around themselves into a deeper dimensional sound like rays of sunlight. Flugelhorn mirrors the vocal melody, sliding between notes behind the singing as a freer but complimentary line. A flat, distant Moog sits in the same register during a break, not immediately distinguishable from the horn. Phasing guitar feedback blossoms out from that same bulb to drive to the final dynamic peak.
Cyclocardoray reminds me of nature’s self-contained motion, the clashes and the cooperation all revolving around each other. The arrangements are so fluid I can’t tell if they’re improvised or not, or perhaps sampled and re-assembled through mixing. Put it on after a stressful day and breathe easy.