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Earthen Sea - Grass And Trees [Kranky - 2019]

New York artist Jacob Long has been working in the field of experimental music since 1997, in projects such as Amalgamation, Black Eyes, Mi Ami, and Skate. In 2003 under the banner of Earthen Sea, he decided to focus on solo activities- which has seen him move from raw ambient/drone, onto lighter and more rhythmic sound, combining ambient, drone, dub and techno elements. Earthen Sea has released nine full-length albums, three EP's, two split-albums, two DJ Mixes, and a few miscellaneous releases.

In 2019, on the american label Kranky released he released his ninth full-length as Earthen Sea, Grass And Trees. The album appeared in the form of CD and LP, as well as in the digital version-all these are available via the label & the projects Bandcamp site.

The album cover is a piece of abstract watercolor painting. Yellow and blue strokes of paint, mixing, form green elements and flow down a white background down several paths. The drawing is rotated 90 degrees to the left, so the illusion is created that the paint does not flow down, but from left to right. On the right side of the cover, between paint streaks, on a white background, the name of the project is written in simple black font. The album title is missing. As a big fan, of abstract painting and this type of cover art, in particular, I believe itís a  great visual presentation of the musical part of the album- as it conveys the light, abstract and minimalistic spirit.

The release consists of seven tracks of approximately the same length. The total duration of the release is just over thirty-eight minutes. The projects previously album 2017 An Act of Love was a mixture of drone, ambient and clear rhythmic techno beats- with this new release Jacob departs from this sound and presented a new approach to writing music. All compositions are built on a single principle - a gradual increase in the saturation and activity of sound elements. This is done using the stereo-delay effect and the slow introduction of new elements. Each composition begins with a limited number of sounds supported by a rhythmic delay. Gradually, new sounds are  introduced, there is a sense of rhythm and melodic structures (but not melodies). The main line remains unchanged, but acquires new sonic additions- to become a very rich sound canvas. All this has excellent spatial stereo effect- where the listener hears the cycle of sounds, barely perceptible rhythms, and melodies. It even seemed to me that there were small proportion of Tribal rhythms present too, which, in my opinion, adds a certain charm to the album.

It seems to me that for Grass And Trees, Long drew inspiration from dub-music, kraut-rock, and the work of such electronic music masters as Steve Roach, for example. From Dub, he took the abundance of delay, from Krautrock - cyclicality and meditative, from the classics of electronic music - lightness and freshness of sound. Not a trace remains from the raw sound of previous albums. Grass And Trees sounds very light, clean and airy. I  particularly liked the addition of light white noise, which is the background of most of the compositions. It's most unobtrusive and relaxing.

Iíve played this album several times. And while in places it was a little hit & miss, it didnít take away from the general impact of the whole thing. Each time Iíve played Grass And Trees Iíve felt really relaxed, refreshed, and full of positive emotions. I not sure if the next Earthen Sea album will be made in the same style, but Iíll certainly be now following to see what Jacob Long does next.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Sergey Pakhomov
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