When the brief write-up at the Kranky Records website, kranky.net, describes its most recent free download as “a live version of the song, ‘Coral Gables'” from Gregg Kowalsky‘s forthcoming debut full-length release, Through the Cardial Window, due out in April, the more ethereal-minded listener might fear that, well, you know, it’ll be a “song”: words that hint at a story through rhyme, a tune that treads the familiar path back and forth between verse and chorus, tossing in perchance a bridge. God forbid, ya know?
Fear not, fans o’ abstraction. This latest MP3 is true to the Kranky label’s strengths in rural atmospherics. Kowalsky makes his musical home in the remote fringes of headspace, even if the free Kranky track takes its name from a stately Miami suburb (Kowalsky’s bio states he was raised in Florida). “Coral Gables” (MP3) is a burbling brook of organo-electronica, and it adheres to, if not song structure, then certainly the single-sine-wave arc of much drone music, moving from near silence and back again, in between peaking with a hazy, textured moment that would only be considered loud relative to the quietude that bookends it. That texture at times sounds like a filtered waterfall, at others merely like you have water in your ear. And though the arc is singular, the sound is not; it is many simultaneous layers of airy noise, from quick rounds of digital riffs to more serrated, granulated material.
More info on Kowalsky at his website, ossobucco.net, where a second free track, from the same session that yielded “Coral Gables” (he describes the pair as “2 live compositions from the Ensemble Room, Mills College [Oakland, 2004]”), can be found. Titled “Into the Marshes They Drove Me,” it’s another essay into low-to-the-ground, murky soundscapes (MP3), but with the benefit of sublimated tribal drums that lend momentum. (I was hoping to see Kowalsky play at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco this past Friday, along with Birdshow and the duo of Greg Davis and Sebastian Roux, but a nasty sore throat, which I didn’t feel like sharing with some of my favorite musicians and their fans, kept me home.)