The Green Kingdom: Dustloops: Memory Fragments

I'm not quite sure whether I should regard Michael Cottone's latest The Green Kingdom release as one on equal footing to others in his discography or accord it special status as a collection of mongrel pieces he rescued from an old hard drive or two, the latter impression bolstered by an album title that suggests material either exhumed from memory or a dusty attic. Regardless, some of the recording's thirteen tracks carve out dramatically different territory for the Michigan-based sound artist. In no way has the signature pastoral electronica style he's refined over many years in releases for labels such as Nomadic Kids Republic and Home Assembly Music been abandoned, but it has undergone alteration. While loops are quite literally present in a typical album track's structural design, a dusted hip-hop vibe also surfaces in a few places.

Assembled using acoustic instruments, electronics, beats, sampled textures, and field recordings, Cottone's The Green Kingdom soundworld is, as we know by now, a dense and richly textured animal. But the vinyl crackle prominently flooding the opener “dust_rds” is the first sign that something's changed this time out, and the equally crackle-smothered “green being” roots its vocal textures and melodic phrases in a techno groove, of all things. While a fraction slower, “ambin5” likewise sees Cottone animating a tripped-out swirl of vocal and musical fragments with a bass-driven dance groove—not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of The Green Kingdom. That Dustloops: Memory Fragments is an unusual outing becomes even more apparent when the fourth track, “On Golden Swamp,” finds Cottone adding funk bass lines to a head-nodding brew of hazy beats and textures. As the album proceeds, the listener familiar with The Green Kingdom style starts to think that the album is perhaps a collection of woozy, crackle-drenched experiments that document different possible directions Cottone was toying with.

Admittedly, some pieces are emblematic of the project's established style. Its beat pattern aside, “dustloop4” soothes in a manner consistent with The Green Kingdom as formerly known, and Cottone even augments the tune's electronic and keyboard sparkle with harp strums. But more often than not, he deviates from the style, seemingly wanting to shake things up so as to reconsider the project's identity. One might best think of Dustloops: Memory Fragments as a forty-nine-minute portrait of a less familiar side of The Green Kingdom. No matter how one feels about it, credit must be extended to Cottone for trying out new ideas instead of regurgitating old ones, which at this stage of the project's evolution would be easy for him to do.

October 2013