Fresh Stream

Dark Sunny Land — S/T


Steve Painter’s music is not a casual experience, and your sonic travels through his third DARK SUNNY LAND LP (his second on One Hand Records) offer no reprieve or exception. Primarily a vehicle for the Boston-based artist’s experimental, abstract guitar-based compositions, this self-titled work—four compositions over two sides in a beautiful, alien-gothic package—uses a variety of simple masking techniques (tremolo, delay, volume swells, etc.,) to turn an everyday instrument like a guitar into an exceptionally expressive sound-making tool capable of covering a much bigger canvas than usual.

In a game of background and foreground interplay, Side A conjures a twilight walk into the jungle—with foreboding, overlapping hums, each presenting their own varying color and temperature. As you slip your boots into the murky stream, you wonder: Were you poisoned or were you drugged? Seductive chirps and glassy hovering tones offer glimpses of ambiguous melody, although it seems that Painter is more concerned with scripting a wordless radio drama with a Foley-artist’s touch (the album credits note the use of “household objects”) than sticking a line in your head. Side B’s “Mind Out of Time” (note the Dylan play) finds the various layers of buzzing, humming, sub-octave bellowing, and faint trumpeting creating a canopy of dissonant, shifting chords. The shadow of drumbeats echoes in the distance as bones chatter and birds call. The final shift into the uplifting, gentle rays of “Kangaroo Daydream” suggests that there was really nothing to fear after all. You always had all the tools you needed.

Amazingly, with all of the sound-processing going on, there is nary a guitar to be heard in any of this. But also, it would be impossible to make Dark Sunny Land music without one. A fascinating paradox that reminds us that the continuous exploration of a craft can often lead to idiosyncrasies in which imitation would be completely impractical, if not impossible.

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