Out Of Darkness, Light
Don't let the cute name and the rabbit ears the band likes to wear during live sets fool you: Gunshae (pronounced Gun-shai) is one serious and seriously good outfit hailing from Vancouver, Canada. The project is the brainchild of self-professed “trans-continental ambienteers” Kuma and Lady Eve, the former an electronic producer with a jones for improvising and the latter a classically trained oboist and DJ. On its second album (this one on the Brooklyn-based Ohm Resistance label), the group locates a distinctive spot for itself within the ambient-classical firmament by embedding the oboe within dub-inflected electronic settings. The eight tracks comprising Out Of Darkness, Light developed out of live improvisations recorded over a four-year span in a myriad of locales, among them Vancouver, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Melbourne, and were then re-shaped at Den Studios in Vancouver.
The oboe's insistent, pied piper-like call makes its sinuous presence felt at the outset of “Air Into Gold” as Kuma fashions a hazy drift of washes and vocal chants as a backdrop for Lady Eve's hypnotic playing—an arresting opening that also sees Australian poet Graham Colin sending the piece into a whole other stratosphere with an evocative text recitation. Adding to the recording's sonic range are contributions from a number of guests. Vancouver clarinetist Shawn Earle amplifies the space-ambient drama of “2046” by adding the contrast of his clarinet to the high-pitched flow of the oboe, while Pari Kishi's voice becomes a floating cloud mass wafting through “What Would Wong Kar Wai Do?” At times, the music inhabits a dreamlike, dub-ambient space, such as during “Oceanic, Yet Celestial” where Vanessa Stovall's harp strums bolster the music's already celestial character, and its inverted sibling “Celestial, Yet Oceanic,” whose atmospheres are deepened by the participation of analogue synth player Hataken. The album's capped by a remix of “I Left My Heart At Arena Mexico” from Static Discos label founder Fax whose incorporation of electronic beats makes for the recording's most noticeably anomalous moment.Throughout Out Of Darkness, Light, Kuma weaves an unpredictable and diverse array of material—crowd noises, electronics, exotic vocal samples, ethereal atmospheres—into the sound masses, and the timbral contrast between his dronescapes and the oboe is compelling. There's a psychedelic quality to some of the material, such as when echoing oboe swirls bleed into the pulsating vocal drone during “Madroning”—an effect heard elsewhere, too, that finds the woodwind melding with electronics like oil seeping into water. The group's humorous side (as evidenced in a title like “I Left My Heart At Arena Mexico”) is refreshing, given the sober tone that typically characterizes ambient-classical recordings. At seventy-three minutes, the album is long, and only one track of the eight checks in at under seven minutes. Even so, there's enough activity happening within the group's shape-shifting material to ensure that the listener remains engaged throughout.