Loren Dent: Anthropology Vol. 1

Our first exposure to Loren Dent's music came in 2007 when we reviewed his debut CD Empires and Milk. As strong as it is, that release, which we described as “a marvelously realized suite of hymnal drones,” hardly prepares one for Dent's incredible follow-up Anthropology Vol. 1, which presents seventy-three minutes of the most enveloping, immersive, and celestial soundsculpting heard since Stars of the Lid issued And Their Refinement of the Decline in 2007. Dent's drone-like material, which he creates from classical samples, guitar, violin bow, Ebow, Ableton Live, Reason, etc. (Steve Bernal and Sam Lipman contribute cello and saxophone samples, respectively, to a number of tracks), pours forth like an immense flood, and the drowning listener willingly surrenders to the music's undertow. Intensifying the album's impact, Dent presents its thirteen pieces in an uninterrupted flow, which gives Anthropology Vol.1 the character of an extended dreamscape of grandiose design (it should be noted, however, that often the imminent change from one track to another is subtly signaled by a slow retreat at one track's end and subsequent rise at the start of the next).

A measured euphoria pervades the music when heavenly washes of bowed strings and vapours swell into slow-motion cloud formations (“This Thing We Enjoy”) and billowing, string-and-piano drenched masses expand to immense proportions (“Another Rural Fantasty,” “Winter During Wartime,” “We Still Believe in the Sun”). Track titles such as “An Archeology of Tones” and “Be Tectonic With Me” allude to a primal dimension in Dent's music, where sheets of organ-driven expanses shimmer in time-transcending manner. Don't be put off by an occasional pretentious title (e.g., “The Loss of Eternal Life”); if you're the kind of listener who salivates at the prospect of new material by Celer, Adam Pacione, and Northern, you'd be sorely remiss in not seeking out Anthropology Vol.1. If anything, the album reminds me of “The Gates of Delirium,” the side-long opener to Yes's Relayer, given how much listening to Dent's material evokes the imagined experience of entering said gates.

January 2010