Gossimer — Close the Circle, Lay the Stones

I want to keep the Heavy Mess momentum going and take a look at another one of the new label's most recent releases, Gossimer's Close the Circle, Lay the Stones. In our eternal quest for cross-post connections, this one is a slam dunk. Gossismer is the work of Jennifer Williams, who you will remember as one-half of the band Orra. The other half? Sean Conrad! Ah man, that feels so satisfying. Anyway, while this is my first time hearing Gossimer, this is not a new project. Williams has been making music as Gossimer since the summer of 2012, with a few official releases and some self-released live material and demo tracks in the ensuing years. Beyond making great music, Williams is also an accomplished writer and poet, with work published in various journals and anthologies.

Gossimer's most recent, Close the Circle, Lay the Stones is the seventh release on Heavy Mess, maintaining the high quality control and its slightly skewed aesthetic. Hmm, slightly skewed might sound insulting, but it is not meant to; what I mean is that the label seems to be adept at defamiliarizing, upsetting one's expectations. We touched on this with the Death Is New Life review, as that record seemed to allow a darker undercurrent to emerge with the Ashan sound, to upset my preconceived New New Age expectations if you will. While I didn't have any expectations with Close the Circle, Lay the Stones, the opening tracks suggested what the Gossimer sound was—an updated pastoral, psyche folk, bringing to mind Shirley Collins or The Pentangle. You hear Williams' beautiful, slightly haunting vocals over finger picked guitar notes and you feel like you get it. But, then after the first two tracks, her voice disappears, the songs stretch out, tempos slow to a crawl, guitar notes get sparser, noise, drones and static starts to emerge out of the background; you can still hear those folk beginnings through all 6 tracks and 48 minutes, but they feel like they are warping right before your ears. It's really wonderful stuff that gets better with each spin and ever closer listening.

Of course, with multiple listens, you start to realize that that initial reading of the opening tracks wasn't quite as accurate and straightforward as you thought. Give a listen to the sample above, as I think it captures perfectly this subtle estrangement that makes the album so wonderful. "Stranger Family" has the framework of what I think of as the Gossimer template—lush acoustic instrumentation, dark lyrics, beautiful, emotive vocals, looping guitar notes, deliberate pace—that creates a gothy psychedelic folk. But, closer listening reveals exhilarating moments of dissonance, as the machine gets into the garden. Perhaps my favorite example comes around 40 seconds in; just as the guitar notes loop and pick up steam, a sudden burst of feedback briefly punctures the pastoral vibe and leaves the listener unnerved. Love love love. There's a (probably unintended) structure to the album with 3 sets of similar length 2-song sets, moving from the 4 and half minute openers to the 7+ minute middle section to the epic, 11+ minute closers. Those final two sections/4 songs need to be heard, especially "Close the Circle," a 11 and a half minute gem that mixes minimal guitar with ghostly ambient sounds to create the highlight of the album for me. 

This release is everything I look for from a new label, as it subtly expands my own listening and introduces an artist that deserves a much wider audience. It gets a definite recommendation and not just for fans of folk; anyone interested in adventurous music should buy a copy right now. Head to the Heavy Mess Bandcamp store, where you can buy Close the Circle, Lay the Stones as either a limited edition cassette (+free digital download) for $7 or as a digital album in the format of your choice for $5. Like I keep saying, there can never be enough labels exploring the sonic edges and buying this music is the only way to assure ourselves that we will get more of it. Once you have done that, check out the Heavy Mess main page for more info on the label and their soundcloud for more music samples. For the social media kids, link up with braeyden and the label on Twitter and Instagram. For more Gossimer, check out past releases at the Bandcamp store and grab more sonic samples on soundcloud; for more on Jennifer Williams and her fiction writing, head to her main page! That should all keep you busy while I work on the next post. Ok bye.