Devin Sarno — Fall

Ok, we are trying to get back into a rhythm here at Pound for Pound, which means we are going to try to post a ton of new (well, new-ish at this point) releases over the next week and end the year with a bang. I want to start this resurgence with Devin Sarno's Fall, a two-track cassette that showed up in my inbox a few months ago and immediately piqued my interest. Sarno's bio noted his musical mission as "a sonic examination of the meditative properties of low-end drone music",  which is pretty much a sext at Pound for Pound. Inspired by everyday noises and silence, his is an exciting project, one that aligns perfectly with our own growing in interest in artists exploring the potential of sound, experimenting with its basic materials to push us to reimagine how we listen and what it can accomplish. 

I actually was actually lucky enough to ask Devin a few questions about the impetus behind this record via email. You have to be sick of hearing me blab, so I want to let Devin's words take center stage in this post. First, he gave some background on his recent work, explaining that "For many years I’ve had a fascination with the everyday ambient sounds around us and how they function as a sort of unconscious soundtrack to our lives. Many of my drone-based pieces of late have been a representation of that concept with the inclusion of field recordings, found sound and the like." It's a project that really intrigues me, this attempt to mix the composed and found, to make music from the unnoticed, to make us aware of our daily environment. In some ways, I hear an echo of our developing concept of ambient as spectral with this emphasis on the unconscious, the unheard, and the unnoticed.

Regarding this recent release, he talked of the inspiration for these two ~13 minute tracks. "The structure of “Entanglement” is akin in some ways to the inward & outward rhythms of breathing. It’s defiant in some respects and (I hope) somewhat seductive in others. In the case of “Running Embrace,” over the length of the track the faintest of melody begins to ride subtly beneath the dominant drone. It’s a steady and slowly evolving piece." Not surprisingly, Sarno captures a lot of the record's appeal, as it reconfigures your ears with its glatial pace, its subtle shifts, its lowercase sounds.

Devin was kind enough to send along an excerpt of "Running Embrace," the album's opening track, so that y'all can get a sense of exactly what to expect. This 4-minute chunk drops you right in the thick of things, a bleak section that conjures up inhospitable landscapes on first listen. I want to highlight one of the most exciting aspects of this album, the paradoxical nature of Sarno's work. What I mean by that is that a music of our everyday ambience ironically attains its full power the more you can get away from that background noise. I had been trying to listen to Fall mostly in cafes and out and about in the city at its busiest moments. It seemed to mirror those spaces, a loud, enveloping din; in fact, my first and best analogy to the central drones was to the sound of an airplane passing overhead for someone on the ground, that muffled roar that anyone who has lived in a city will instantly recall. However, once I started to spend time with it early and late, when the everyday was asleep, a whole world started to emerge. Out of that massive, air pollution drone, suddenly I heard the sounds of children playing, drops of liquid, bird songs, guitar notes, haunting bells and more. It gave me chills when I suddenly realized that this whole world was there, that it just took finding the right vantage point to listen closer to discover it. Perhaps most interesting of all, when you find that quiet space, the music starts to leak into the city; or more accurately, the city leaks into the music, as someone shutting their door or a car horn going off feel a part of Sarno's music rather than an annoyance. I won’t burden this with talk of utopia and my usual spiel, but I will say that the way Fall exists on the border, slipping between terms—composed/improvised, quiet/loud, monolithic/molecular, city/body, material/conceptual—is brilliant and exhilarating, experimental music at its finest. 

Mr. Sarno was already aware of this. As he wrote to me on an ideal listener, "My hope, always, is that people might have the patience and desire to allow themselves inside the pieces enough to discern some of the subtlety that’s lurking inside of them…much in the same way that I have come to appreciate much of the otherwise unrecognized ambience that swirls around us at any given time." I know that my readers possess these skills, so I just hope that they will apply them to this record. I highly recommend Fall, so head to Devin's Bandcamp store to buy a copy. It is available on cassette in a limited, limited edition of 25 or as a download in the format of your choice. Once you get that, take a gamble on something else, as I have a feeling you won't be disappointed. For more info on Devin Sarno, head to his personal page, where you can hear more of his music, learn about upcoming releases and shows, and learn more about his defunct label Absence of Wax. You can get in touch with Devin on Twitter (@devinsarno), Facebook, or Instagram, if that's your thing. We’ll hopefully have more to say and share on Sarno’s work and other new discoveries, but up next is the second volume of Nuphonic’s The Loft compilation. Talk soon.