The vast majority of records document the work of a specific musician or band. However, there is a second category of records that don’t just document a single artist, but instead document an entire scene or community. Records of this second category are not as common, and often very special. They offer a window into the inner workings of an entire creative community. This is one of those records. Examples that come to mind of records in this category are Waste Sausage and Leather Donut compilations where a bunch of weirdos in mid 80s Sydney, Australia formed a series of one off bands and put out two compilation lps of sinister weirdness, or any of the compilations released by the sprawling experimental music collective the Los Angeles Free Music Society like Blub Krad or Darker Scratcher that consisted of various LAFMS personal in various one off combinations, often with colorful monikers like the Fine Art Dumpters.
Records such as this one are far and few between and often very special. A Sonic Collaboration… doesn’t really sound exactly like the aforementioned records, but same spirit of community collaboration is there.
The genesis of this record is that all the way back in early 2016, Kevin Dacey, of the excellent Lowell MA experimental unit Chill City Icon, bought some recording gear and set out with a plan to record a full length album by the end of the year. To realize this goal he reached out to a massive constellation of old friends and collaborators who got together in various combinations with no pre-planned ideas and recorded a full length record. The result is a very varied album that ranges from full on improvised noise to singer-songwriter oriented material.
The musicians appearing on this record generally came from all over New England originally but are now spread out across the US in such locations as Philadelphia, Olympia, Vermont, New York State, New York City, Portland, and Hudson. They play in a wide variety of projects from the indie pop of Banana, to the hip hop of Slam Kitchen, to the acoustic stylings of Sadurn, to the sludge metal of Table Trash, to the acoustic singer songwriter music of Magellan, to the rock based instrumentals of Metacom. The players on A Sonic Collaboration… come from a very wide range of backgrounds so stylistically the album goes in many directions because of that. The presence of Kevin Dacey’s playing on each track is the thread that binds the whole record together into a recognizable whole.
The first half of A Sonic Collaboration… is mostly song based starting with the campfire sing along of “Capital Cuts”, which leads into the almost Tim Buckley style vocals and singing of Ray McNamara on “The Rain, The Steam” which is the second track. The album travels through spoken word (on “Supermarket is the Place”), Eastern European folk song (on “Israzlo Duvo”). The album really heats up in the last stretch with the mangled tape loops of “Me, I’ve Never Been There Bro”, to the almost Harry Partch like tonalities of “Polyester Fiber and the PVC Babies” and “As Transience Goes…”. The last track on the record “Casio Floes” is my favorite and pretty much sounds like Lightning Bolt if they played toy instruments. On each track A Sonic Collaboration…. there is a lot of detail and it lends itself to repeated listenings because with each listen the sonic picture becomes richer.
A Sonic Collaboration of the Dear, Near and Far is both a musical journey worth taking, and a valuable insight into a musical community. Spending time in this world will enrich your life, so take the plunge!