Damian Valles: Rural Route No. 1
Standard Form

The Toronto-based Standard Form label makes its first foray into three-inch territory with a very nice three-track set by Damian Valles. Rural Route No. 1 finds the sound-sculpting guitarist having relocated from an urban to rural setting and channeling his response to the change in twenty minutes of live-sounding material built from processed guitar and percussion.

The thirteen-minute running time of “Low Population Density” identifies it as the key piece of the three, and the track lives up to expectations. Following a restrained opening of environmental noises, Valles' electric guitar playing moves into the spotlight, at first laying the groundwork with a ponderous, metronomic figure and then building on it with multiple patterns. The collective sound grows intense and the melodic weave more intricate, until two-thirds of the way through the music swells to an aggressive snarl that feels primed to explode. Valles pulls back, however, and gradually eases the material down until it exits as quietly as it began. Though it's a tad more conventional by comparison, “Swale” layers tremolo shudders over a plodding percussion base in still-memorable manner, while “Minor Variance” conjures a lonely and desolate feel in its Labradford-styled moodscaping.

The Rural Route series is oriented around ambient, experimental, electronic, electroacoustic, and field recordings-based material with each installment issued in a three-inch format and in a limited run of 150 copies. Let's hope Valles' fine inaugural contribution is a sign of things to come.

January 2010