In the cavalcade of zen lectures floating around out there and being generally perplexing, there’s a particular one about sound. The only slightly butchered version: if you try to listen to something, you’ll never hear the totality of things. Through mental effort, all you’ll ever get is a string of composites, pieces of noises that make up the whole as your attention drifts from all the different facets of sound contained within the song.
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Loess’ newest album ‘Pocosin’ is an exercise in constantly losing your grasp of things. Each song, every curated sound, all your boggy thoughts work to eradicate themselves. Many of the songs are named for fish or other aquatic terms, and it’s hard not to imagine the music as submerged, unmoored, and held together by unpredictable shafts of sunlight that pierce the depths. After a while, the individual pieces fall away, and the songs become their own dark current.
Which is to say that nothing in ‘Pocosin’ is particularly new. Given the time and attention, you could isolate the minimal beats, the dark ambient bass tones, the subdued samples lurking in the background and liken them to this or that group or album, place them in their proper genealogies and taxonomies. Separating any individual facet for too long—an ambient tone, a certain rhythm—reveals its stagnation and lack of originality, but Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman lead you astray at every step. The harder you listen, the less you hear. The more attention you give, the more the music pulls it away.
Take “Striae”: soft tones, sharp chords, and distant samples all form a kind of whorl around the song, and the only thing to tie it down is the sloppy, organic beat that flits around the track and ebbs and flows with its various movements. It’s impossible to tell what’s planned, what was recorded organically, what moves were calculated and what ones were improvised—follow a line for too long, and it becomes lost in three or four others. Tracks like “Petrel” and “Wrikken” drop into long, droning ambient pieces in the back half of the song that never return to themselves. Melodic interludes are peppered between longer pieces that serve like memories you didn’t know you had. Some pieces of the track seem so distant that it’s as though a part of the music is always kept behind a veil, while louder drones, basslines and crisp beats pull you into a whole different locality. At first listen, it’s not even clear if sounds are erupting from the songs or from the tumbling reality that surrounds the listener.
Without making comparisons or drawing more useless reference points, it’s enough to say that Loess takes you somewhere, and ‘Pocosin’ works best when there’s nothing left to grasp, when you realize you’ve stopped really listening.
Pocosins are particular wetlands with incredibly acidic and brackish soil that occur along the Atlantic coast of the United States. The terrain is unpredictable, fraught with seepage, and largely unfarmable. They form tremendous stretches of uniform small pines, vines, and hedges, giving the sense of being everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
You know—forest for the trees, and whatever.
‘Pocosin’ is out now via n5MD Records.