Joseph Shabason / Ben Gunning Muldrew

Joseph Shabason / Ben Gunning Muldrew
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Filling a truck full of synths and drum machines, multi-instrumentalists and improv musicians Joseph Shabason and Ben Gunning headed north, where, deep in cottage country, they began operating within an "open framework." On a different type of vacation, the duo worked on a flowy, collaborative album free from their usual structured and arrangement-focused vibes. No jet-skis or rowdy barbecues here; only experimental sounds and focus.
 
A Walden-esque album, somewhat reflecting the need for escape (and maybe, the Canadian need to get up away, somewhere, into nature), Muldrew, titled after the lake in Ontario's Muskoka country where it was recorded, is free, unstructured and undefined.
 
After opening with ambient track "Bois Blanc," the album immediately gets into experimental "Commanda," which pierces a simple wind-chimey beat with high, echoing notes and unknown, hard to guess sounds. At just over four minutes, it feels, somehow, not long enough. A couple of listens are required to catch all the little details of "Commanda."
 
Dreamy and ethereal, "Lalla Rookh" features some jangly, surprising notes and instrumentals as well, alongside some organic soft guitar picking and echoey, synth-y sounds. Sometimes it sounds like a train is driving by in the distance; other times, it sounds like a fairy is playing a strange harmonica just for you. Then, towards the end, footsteps — but not ominous ones. Do I hear rain? Cracking firewood? What else? Like the rest of the album, "Lalla Rookh" is intricate and layered, each new instrument woven into the fabric of the song, each new noise sounding right at home with the rest of them.
 
"Lowland" takes the listener down to something deeper, almost heavier, but still within it carries details and stories within the background noise. "Crocodiles" leans heavily into being a much more experimental and alien opening for the record's B-side. Beautiful and, at times, a little eerie, Muldrew sounds like the break from the city it was recorded as. A collaborative project between two friends, it's not the first effort like this from the duo, and — forgive the cliché — hopefully, it won't be the last. (Séance Centre)