There is no one single sound of the desert. The desert is a collage: wind rusting creasote, reptiles scraping across, communicating birds overhead. Cy Dune’s Desert, the latest dispatch of sun-damaged blues from Seth Olinsky of Akron/Family, reflects the noise of the Sonoran and Mojave. It serves as an audio companion to the spirit that fueled Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: “…feel that raw and rugged earth…draw blood! Why not?”
Recorded in Tucson, Arizona, Joshua Tree, California, and Brooklyn, New York, Desert reflects the multitudes of the desert. Its swooning melodies blur into washes of electric guitars that embody the connecting threads between the Hill Country and Mali; blown-out drums collide with late night Sonoran folk songs. The first in a series of archival recordings from Lightning Records, Desert was written in Tucson, where Olinsky and his partner Ali Beletic moved in 2010, and the songs continued to mutate and morph as the two decamped to Joshua Tree in 2014, informed by sonic experiments in the desert, where generators provided electricity for amplifiers and drum machines. Desert finds Olinsky modifying and expanding those experiments, working with bassists Shazad Ismaily (of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog and numerous other projects) and William Parker, along with David Hartley of War on Drugs and Icy Demons’ Chris Powell, to flesh out and expand them.
The result is a layered collage, alternately dreamy and feverish. “It’s easy to mythologize where you want to be found,” Olinsky sings on “Just Kids,” like Dylan with his eyes bloodshot and searching. And the place he wants to be found? It’s deep in the desert, the desert, for these purposes, representing nothing more than open possibilities. His yelping on “Desert 3” confirms the here and everywhere-ness of his aims: “You burned bonfires in my imagination/Across the desert, across the continent.” words/j woodbury
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