10.25.12/Tired Waves

I can assume that a significant portion of our readership can remember being in New York City during Hurricane Sandy. It just so happened that my wife and I were on a brief respite home from our two years in Swaziland, Africa as Peace Corps Volunteers when the hurricane hit. We were scheduled to leave on a plane from NYC two days after Sandy. We arrived by bus at the terminal in Manhattan and tried to navigate our way to Brooklyn to stay with our friends. Because the subway lines off the island were still underwater we were forced to take a cab. Driving through deserted streets and closed up store fronts was an eerie, melancholy experience that more or less fulfilled a waking fantasy I used to have of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. 

Mattson Ogg, a Brooklynite, was there at that time too. The A-side of his debut tape is a solemn reflection, or his attempt to score, that day when we were all just a little worried that no matter how tall we build our towers we still live at the mercy of a labile nature. Like the date, 10.25.12 is all gathering storm. All dread as we hear the rumblings of something terrible coming. On 10.25.12 Hurricane Sandy makes landfall at Cuba and rips through Haiti killing 51 people. Mattson Ogg barricades himself in his bedroom and channels a city's worth of dread (or at least his block's) through the skinny neck of his guitar. A oscillating, sustained tone is felt throughout. Making subtle shifts in pitch it makes its presence known only as guitar lines peel away or diminish. What could possibly be a laid back guitar strummer patched together by dozens of fragmented guitar lines swooping in with internal logic of moth flight on 09.25.12, is instead sustained by this ominous tone and gather like sick-green clouds pregnant with looming disaster. We can make out the shape (the omnipresent, stereo-panning strumming, rich rhythmic bass and improvised half riffs dropping into milieu unannounced) but at its heart, there is something more than water and air (tone and pitch), something we have to stare into. Something sentient and uncreated.

On Side-B, Ogg investigates the sustained drone, but this time to a much more calming end. Guitar lines still drop in, but instead of the gathering storm intenseness of a hurricane girding itself for pillage, these guitar lines are wisps of clouds across an otherwise clear sky. They sweep in like unfinished ideas running all over the fretboard. In the last four minutes or so, Ogg picks up some rhythmic strumming and gives the piece some finality. Some triumphant coda as the camera pans up to reveal the sun peeking through clouds following a devastating storm. A general sense of relief. That we survived. That we are OK.

Maintaining a music blog while a full-time grad student and working over 40 hours a week isn't easy. I am up at 5:30 writing this down before I have to go to work. 10.25.12/Tired Waves has been on constant repeat ever since I received the tape. It is amorphous enough to keep in the background while writing policy papers, yet is structural and deep enough to really sink your teeth into. Highly recommended.

November 20th, 2013