Visible Cloaks

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
A Crystal Skull In Peru (2007), 7/10
Serene (2008), 6.5/10
Visible Cloaks (2014), 6/10
Reassemblage (2017), 7/10
Lex (2017), 6.5/10 (mini)

The Cloaks (Oregon's pianist Spencer Doran) specialized in swirling minimalist repetition of piano patterns woven into intricate layers of musique concrete notably with the 32-minute A Crystal Skull In Peru for piano, electronics, zither and bells, off A Crystal Skull In Peru (Athiests Are Gods, 2007) a piece that initially sounds like vinyl gnawed by mice but then deconstructs a romantic melody in a cubistic manner and finally can spread its wings and indulge in unlimited amounts of tinkling until a few minutes from the end a loud sinister piano drone takes it to a funereal ending; and with the 35-minute Dream Tape Number One for piano and electronics, off Serene (Students Of Decay, 2008), a more ambient piece that begins hesitating and limping and grows slowly with minimal variations and only at the end reveals a hummable melody.

Under his own name, Doran released humbler lo-fi collections of atmospheric music: Puzzles (Easelmusic, 2006), that collect home recordings of 2002-5, Echoplexia (2006), Inner Sunglasses (2007), Seasonal Loop (2008) and Styles (2008).

He then collaborated with Brian Pyle and Jon Pyle on two albums credited to RV Paintings: Trinity Rivers (Root Strata, 2007) and Samoa Highway (Helen Scarsdale Agency, 2010).

Doran also curated an anthology of Japanese synth-pop of the 1980s: Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo-Fourth-World Japan (2010)

Ryan Carlile joined Doran in 2014 and the Cloaks became a duo, debuting with the cassette Visible Cloaks (Sun Ark, 2014 - Musique Plastique, 2018). Its highlight is the 16-minute Escape Music from City to Paradise, which begins as a gentle magma of bubbles and feathers but attacked by an abrasive metallic drone, with increasing echoes and tingling. After eight minutes sidereal voices catalyze a trance for bells and xylophone, sounding almost like gamelan; and after 12 minutes and a brief sample of ethnic singing it decays into Dadaistic synth doodling, which ruins the whole experience. It is a minor work compared with the juggernauts of early Cloaks.

Visible Cloaks was the new name under which Doran and Carlile released the ambient album Reassemblage (RVNG, 2017). The eleven vignettes of this album are painstakingly architected, and they are not stationary at all, each with its own narrative identity, but they suffer from the limitation of their own brevity. There is an enchanted watery landscape in Screen, and fairies dance in the ethereal Wintergreen, but these are fleeting visions. The composers excel at using contrast and variety to make each composition a unique creation. Fragments of voices and rambling neoclassical strings collide in Circle, while gamelan bowls propel Mask through a crowd of warped voices. Relatively simple ideas can generate a deep sense of mystery. The droning strings and wooden percussion of Place evoke melancholy and ancient rituals of village life, while Neume stretches and multiplies a male voice with an effect that is both psychedelic and austere. Valve vivisects Miyako Koda's vocals inside the lightest of nebulae while inventing the mirage of a bamboo flute in a forest. It's an album of visions that never materialize, and perhaps that's precisely what it was intended to be. Had this album surfaced a decade earlier, it would have been the natural bridge between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Oneohtrix Point Never.

The mini-album Lex (2017) contains several two-minutes appetizers (notably the lively Wheel, a carillon in which we hear not only the tune but also the unwinding of the clockwork) and the main dish, the 14-minute World, which lays down a celestial drone and then covers it with fleeting vocal fragments that have a spiritual quality, while instruments and noises drop in and out like fast-flying insects.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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