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TOTEM>: Voices of Grain (2014)

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TOTEM>: Voices of Grain How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

For those that have heard TOTEM>'s Solar Forge, Voices of Grain will be familiar territory as guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil, bassist Tom Blancarte, and drummer Andrew Drury deepen and extend their intensity and group empathy while expanding their range of expression.

While Solar Forge is white hot through and through, Voices of Grain has pacing of sorts, in that translucent, spacious, and at times beautiful tracks, separate the denser, more "frantic" tracks. It is in these tracks that TOTEM> shows its growth. The liner gives no information about the track lengths, and it is just as well, because time essentially stands still and even the two 15+ minute tracks ("Genosong" and "Post- Repeating") seem to flash by.

Part of the fun of this music is the "How do they get those sounds?" question, and in this area Blancarte leads the way. Indeed, he sometimes seems to have three hands and two bows, to the point where it seems that the recording must have used overdubbing, which, however, Eisenbeil denies. He states that the music was recorded with the trio close together in one room, not playing loudly, thus giving the sounds generated time to expand. The apparent loudness on headphones could be from the closeness of recording and the tightness of the sound stage. The aural journey on which this record takes the listener is enhanced by Eisenbeil's use of panning his guitar sounds, which Eisenbeil says is audible to a live audience.

TOTEM> is a trio of virtuosi that have obviously spent much time together honing their group sound. Their music always has an intensity to it, even in the softer and more transparent passages, and the astute listener can hear each player listening and responding to the others. Waves of varying densities and sound texture build, press against the listener and then ebb away, giving the music an extremely organic feel, despite Eisenbeil's upfront electronics.

Voices of Grain is a fantastic recording and well worth the time to explore its many nooks and crannies.

Track Listing: Genosong; Written In The Body; Counter Memory; Towards Jouissance; Message Without A Code; Post-Repeating; Silence On Its Road.

Personnel: Tom Blancarte: upright bass; Bruce Eisenbeil: guitar; Andrew Drury: drum set.

Record Label: New Atlantis Records


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