AARON OPPENHEIM “Cumberland County” (Full Spectrum)

This is sort of a surprise coming from a Real Life Rock & Roll Band member, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore, I dunno. Cumberland County is three longform experimental pieces that Aaron Oppenheim recorded and then ran through software that turned the source material into a mosaic of pixilated sounds, fragments upon fragments of data input and then spit back out into an unrecognizable and fascinating whole. According to Oppenheim, Cumberland County stands as “a tribute of sorts to … Windham Hill … and their particular strain of New Age music.” It’s certainly a head trip through esoteric landscapes.

The three pieces each have a distinct flavor to them. “September Seas” runs piano compositions through software until its unrecognizable in its original form, but over the course of its ten minutes becomes a new, hybrid entity that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Orange Milk catalog. “Many More” starts along as a high-pitched, cut-up digital blitz, until it coalesces into a surprising ambient drone. “Brick by Brick” is a twenty-minute evolution of acoustic guitar work mulched by a “Sanyo TRC 9010 cassette transcriber,” which loops and layers and distorts the guitar into strange, alien alignments that nevertheless whirl in enchantment until they, again surprisingly, sputter out at the end.

No rock, no roll here. Just a fantastic entry into the Full Spectrum catalog, and one that’ll have me coming back to Aaron Oppenheim’s work in the future.