ROSS GENTRY – PRISM OF DUST (POLAR SEAS RECORDINGS)

Recording under Villages and under his own name, I’ve heard Ross Gentry’s work across a variety of mediums and labels including some GOAT American and European experimental documenters like Bathetic and Oscarson. Landing on Polar Seas Recordings seems like a natural fit compositionally and as a torch bearer for earlier boutique labels focusing on ambient and experimental work. Prism of Dust has been an album I’ve had the privilege of sitting with for a few months and has quickly become one of my favorites released in the first quarter of 2021.

Recorded from a collection of half-finished sketches burning up space on a dusty hard drive, songs on Prism of Dust have a feeling of pulling at you from some kind close forgotten past. We can use “Midway” as a jumping off point. Heavily pawed minor chords during some wistful fall evening, violin drones recorded in a stuffy 3rd floor attic, ample amounts of granular synthesis treating these components until it fractures just right down the past/present split where memories embedded deep in our hippocampus suddenly fire up when we hear the secret chord.  Tracks like “Evacuation” on the other hand are built utilizing expertly layered piano lines and a lattice of string arrangements that bring out the inherent cinematic emotionality of the track. “Nobody Wants to Be Here” travels with a serrated percussive movement punctuated by washed out chords and doom prognostic bass line. The track eventually blooms into a well manicured composition that blends white-noise percussive blasts and lush strings performed by Emmalee Hunnicutt (cello) and Megan Drollinger (violin).

According to Gentry, “Thematically, I was originally inspired by two monumental works of modern fiction, Tom Perrotta’s ‘The Leftovers’ and Don Dellilo’s ‘White Noise’. Both of these stories explore the human tensions, uncertainty and existential dread that ensues when a massive mysterious event shakes the foundation of what we perceive as normalcy and how these events can damage, reshape and reform the human psyche. Of course, these ideas were greatly amplified when, halfway through recording this album, the global pandemic hit and were all forced into our own isolation and existential unknowing.” 

Prism of Dust is an album I’d compare positively to Ben Frost’s work with Theory of Machines and mid-00’s Bedroom Communities output that blurred the lines between neo-classical composition, ambient world building and a DIY approach experimental music. The album itself is out this Friday, but these three sneak peak tunes should give more than enough to sink your teeth into. 

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