Thursday, January 29, 2015

STAG HARE
“Pongdools” c30 (Djrona)
“Gazer” C44 (Tomentosa)



STAGHARE “pongdools” C30 (Djrona)

Staghare, the solo-project of Utah native Garrick Biggs, makes beautiful, meditative and thoroughly accessible drone-pop epics on “pongdools,” the final installment in his self-released Djrona trilogy. Biggs gradually builds each of the tape’s three tracks on layers of simple, raga-like guitar and gently ebbing and flowing synth lines. On the second track “soul dive,” as these reverberating drones slowly take on mass and intensity, a propulsive motorik beat and repetitive 2 note bass hook enter and establish a central pulse around which a bed of wordless (or indecipherable, at least) close-harmony vocals and bubbling, fluttering synth tones revolve and chase one another in and out of the foreground of the mix. As this section peaks, the rhythmic elements disappear momentarily as a longer yet still indecipherable vocal line establishes a further layer of mantric repetition. The rhythm tracks then reappear in slightly reconfigured form to drive the remainder of the eleven plus minute track through a fluid, constantly shifting web of soothing, pleasant tones and textures. 

The other two tracks on “pongdools” adhere to similar structures and are distinguished from one another more by degree of intensity than memorable melody or directly identifiable, individual content. In each of these songs both melodic and textural intentions are rendered fragmentary and dispersed throughout the constituent instrumental and vocal tracks that make up the pulsing whole. The listener gets more of a holistic sense of harmonic and melodic content in flux than a clearly defined and easily repeatable statement of theme. Likewise, instead of exploring unique and singular textures Biggs establishes a familiar, comfortable textural space or range within which his melodic and textural fragments slowly shift and revolve like colored fluids revealing the contours of a  translucent container. 

Terms like these—comfortable, familiar, accessible—might seem like negative qualifiers in the context of self-consciously exploratory, “psychedelic” music, but this thorough pleasantness on the terms of the recognizably, established-as-such “pleasant” is what makes this tape unique. Everything revolves around major key bliss and tried-and-true drone-pop tropes cherry-picked from a number of easily identifiable influences and reconfigured for maximum pleasure. I don’t know enough about the occult to read any significance into the symbols printed on the shell of staghare’s tape, but if they have any significance at all I would be willing to bet Biggs is casting some sort of spell of safety and protection here—marking off a sacred space inaccessible to the ill-intentioned critic who might wield those “pleasant” terms (comfortable, familiar, accessible) as weapons to question the seriousness of Biggs’ psychedelic or quasi-spiritual intent. The music on this tape is not challenging. The dark side of the psychedelic experience, or of spiritual struggle, is given no quarter here in Biggs’ sacred space. Should it be this easy? Can it be this easy? Is this easy-listening almost dancing hip youngsters? Cast out those bad vibes bro. Staghare wants you to have a good trip. Why not indulge? This candy tastes like candy. 


-- Brantley Fletcher

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STAG HARE  “Gazer” C44 (Tomentosa)

Dude, this guy again – I freaking loved Angel Tech (I had the Space Slave version, but it, Pongdools, and Gazer have been released as a 3-tape edition called Djrona). Now I freaking love Gazer. You know why? Because it allows me to use all my favorite adjectives for space when describing the music: celestial, interstellar, infinite, gorgeous. There are probably more, but let’s stop there. I don’t want to get ahead of myself too much.

Salt Lake City’s Garrick Biggs is the man behind Stag Hare, and if you couldn’t guess, he hovers weightlessly around the twin suns of “ambient” and “drone.” Gazer is four psychedelically washed pieces of guitar and synthesizer minimalism, titled “Gaze 1” to “Gaze 4,” that are as transportative to other realms and dimensions as a wormhole. I don’t know if there’s less light pollution out in Utah (especially once you leave Salt Lake City), but I’m almost positive Biggs can see the Milky Way every single night. That would explain a lot.

“Gaze 1” begins all “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space,” but literally, and with no reference to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” As in, imagine yourself floating in space and listening to the celestial tones – that’s it. And Gazer doesn’t shift around much after that either – “Gaze 2” is a little more restless with a few more obvious guitar tones, but again, it’s all pretty much about floating literally in space. “Gaze 3” hints at discovery – of who knows what, life? Passage? Meaning? I almost want to call it my favorite track because I could probably psychoanalyze myself with it. Almost, but I can’t because the whole thing’s so good. “Gaze 4” returns us home, or at least to something more nurturing than deep space that feels like home.

And it’s all cyclical, a nice trick that Biggs achieves – you realize he’s got something up his sleeve other than the secrets of the universe. When “Gaze 4” ends and “Gaze 1” restarts, flip the tape right away, and the chordage runs straight from “4” to “1,” so you have, if you want, an infinite loop without interruption. Genius move – Gazer allows you to start the trip all over again.

Gazer points to my favorite kinds of tapes – sidelong (or in this case, half-sidelong) gas-blasters of stellar proportions, constantly churning nuclear reactions rendered aurally consumable by safe distance. Space porn for your ears. And it makes me feel really, really small and insignificant, a state I should be in more often – it helps me focus. It’s celestial, interstellar, infinite, and downright gorgeous music.


--Ryan “Terminal Velocity” Masteller

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