ANDREW WEATHERS ENSEMBLE “The Thousand Birds in the Earth, the Thousand Birds in the Sky” C40 (Full Spectrum)

If you’re going to go out, why not go out on top? Andrew Weathers, Full Spectrum label head and mastering expert extraordinaire (honestly, how many of the tapes in your collection has he gotten his paws on?) has decided to retire the “Ensemble” moniker after this release, the fascinatingly titled The Thousand Birds in the Earth, the Thousand Birds in the Sky. Why? What could possibly prompt the dissolution of such a consistently excellent project?


Turns out a little wanderlust is all. Andrew Weathers just wants to do something new, and, as such, he actually is going out on top with the Ensemble.


Wanderlust, or something adjacent to it, inspired Thousand Birds anyway, as Weathers’s frequent jaunts across the West Texas desert kicked neurons into gear within his brain, often igniting the spark of inspiration on those lonely highway drives enough that he’d have to quick run to an instrument whenever he’d get home to get everything out of his head that cropped up along the way. The result is four sprawling, flowing tracks, each one a sun-damaged psychic trip to the edge of endurance.


So now that you’ve looked through all your tapes and realized Weathers has worked in some capacity on 85 percent of them (give or take), you won’t be surprised that there’s a long list of collaborators on board to help him realize the Ensemble’s vision. Everybody gets equal footing, and the result truly sounds like a collective effort. Still, it never feels overstuffed – in fact, it always feels airy and lightly melodic, never dense or constricted. Thousand Birds mimics the desert itself, spreading out, endlessly, in all directions, promising visions and truths to those willing to approach it on its terms.


There’s road-movie aspects to it, kosmische, 1970s fusion, drifting folk, and even Autotune! Basically, anything anyone with a predilection toward any of those things could want in their Ensemble releases. (Even though most of us don’t immediately think of Autotune as such a necessary ingredient – how wrong we were …) So if this is indeed the end of the line for the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, it couldn’t have closed out on a higher note. Can’t wait to hear what Weathers himself has up his sleeve next!