Four nearly two years, Cody Yantis, Nate McLaughlin, Josh Mason and Joe Houpert have been engaged in a distinctive and refreshing creative process. Striving to produce what they describe as "deliberate music," the four musicians formed a micro-community: Each of them brought forth their own musical ideas, in turn inspiring the other members to activate their own creative sonic thought processes in a sort of musical brainstorming. Each musician then selected their finest efforts from the process and put them forward for release. The fruit of their labour is vast, spanning a number of formats: a vinyl LP, a cassette, five seven-inch records and a book of portraits. While these talented artists have been active in the American underground for some time individually and in various combinations — centred primarily on Mason's Sunshine Limited imprint — this project is certainly their most adventurous and ambitious outing to date.
The Alice Sketches cassette (released on the Digitalis label) is a 54-minute exercise of musical dialogue. Each artist has put forward a small collection of songs — there are 17 pieces in total — expressing their own unique vision as seen through the prism of the other players. Sonic miniatures featuring inchoate bursts of noise, deft passages of drone and finely spun melodies unwind in succession. This music is deafening in its elegance: each passing second builds a sense of anticipation for what will come next. Line Drawings is a twelve-inch platter produced by the Desire Path Recordings label and features two pieces from each musician. The music offered here feels more cavernous in comparison to the cassette. The sounds are allowed to hover, to drift away at their leisure like a Polaroid picture processing itself in reverse.
The Studies seven-inch series finds the foursome expanding their little community to include a number of like-minded collaborators. Brad Rose, Norm Chambers, Mary Lattimore, Olli Aarni, Anne Guthrie and illustrator Chris Koelle all have a turn producing a side of music in the spirit of the project. Particularly special is Koelle's input, as this is the artist's first physical release. He also produced the artwork for the entire project, which includes a 12-page book of portraits he drew of the people involved. This is what really ties the individual components of the project together, creating a cohesive entity that every single person involved should be immensely proud of. (Desire Path / Digitalis / FET Press)