The Way Things Go
As we've stated in the past, any new release from Elevator Bath is cause for celebration, given the quality of the label's output and the relatively small number of recordings it issues per year, and Rick Reed's The Way Things Go is no exception, especially when it arrives in a ravishing double-vinyl album format and a lush gatefold sleeve adorned with paintings by the Austin-based composer himself (in an edition of 515 copies accompanied by mp3 download code). The release can be seen as a summative portrait of Reed's work, given that there's eighty-three minutes of it and that its six pieces span the years 2001-2010. The list of sound sources—Moog and EMS synthesizers, sine wave generators, shortwave radio, found radio sounds and voices—likewise hints at the kind of blurry, trance-inducing meditations featured on the release. Reed's material exists midway between ambient-drone and noise territories, with an occasionally jarring rupture suddenly piercing the generally placid surface of a prototypical long-form work.
“Mesmerism” inaugurates the recording with soothing intergalactic transmissions, but the album isn't always so calming. The following piece, “Capitalism: Child Labor,” opens with an aggressive flourish before shifting the focus to pulsating electrified drones and creeping dissonance, the awe-inducing effect akin to an army of overdriven machines seething in unison, while “Hidden Voices Pt. 1” offers a phantasmagoric plunge into a teeming universe of writhing frequencies and muffled radio voices. The two side-long pieces afford an even more comprehensive view of Reed's sound-world than the shorter ones. “Celestial Mudpie” evolves with patient deliberation as it makes its way through a gallery of crackling, hissing, and creaking electrical organisms, and 2010's “The Way Things Go (For C. H.)” encounters both whoozy and convulsive episodes as it traces the steps of its shape-shifting itinerary.
Nothing sounds ill-conceived in Reed's productions but rather the natural outgrowth of a deeply sound-sensitive approach refined over a quarter-century of music-making. The track title “Mesmerism” could just as easily have been used as the album title, so hypnotic is Reed's finely crafted material (the second side's “Celestial Mudpie” would have been an equally strong contender, given the way the title emphasizes the music's spacey quality and the organic earthiness of its construction). Listening to The Way Things Go, one enters a state of reverie as the physical world slips way and cedes its place to an alluring realm of heady abstraction.