Morgan Packard Morgan PackardMoment Again Elsewhere
When Morgan Packard’s first album appeared (his first solo album, that is. Two years earlier he released the great “Early Morning Migration” alongside Ezekiel Honig), one of the things that surprised me most was that he gave so much importance to the fact that he was using software he designed himself to create his music. Intriguing and absorbing music, on which first hearing could be labelled as ambient with microsounds (or clicks'n'cuts, if the reader has a certain age), but which really escaped from the usual clichés of the genre, looking for own ways to transit through. “Airships Fills The Sky” (Anticipate, 2007), as the disc was called, was a record on which organic particles (strings, saxophones, accordions) floated over a background of diffuse textures of vague outlines. A background that remained static and purring until, suddenly, a slippery melody would appear out of nothing, altering the whole physical space, provoking waves that would reverberate wildly (in a manner of speaking) in the whole melodic and rhythmic structure of the track.
It intrigued me that Packard would make his own software, but when thinking about it, it occurred to me that it was only logical, mostly because it allowed him to transfer information to another one of his partners, video artist Joshue Ott, who created, in real time, whimsical geometric patterns from that music, of which the light and colouring mutated with violent shakes according to the warmth the rhythm of each song transmitted. It was an experiment of hypnotic and serene beauty (the results of which could be seen on the DVD “Unsimulatable” which came with the first edition of “Airships Fills The Sky”), but most of all it worked as a demonstration that music can be made starting from scratch, without being confined to the conventions that stand in the way of many producers these days. It’s a philosophy Packard has confirmed in a recent interview, stating that “You can theoretically make anything you want via Ableton Live, but the reality is it steers you toward a certain sound, it's steering our music in general toward a certain sound. The exciting thing about a computer is the removal of external limitations, the wide-openness, the ability to create your own universe.”.
So Packard writes his own software because he wants to create his own sound. He builds tools that help him to craft his ideas, to develop a particular approach to the music, which in the case of “Moment Again Elsewhere” is fundamentally rhythmic: in every one of his tunes there is a number of minuscule elements that interact with each other, sonic particles reduced to a naked version which, when joining each other, produce complex rhythm patterns, sonic puzzles in which the cadence with which the pieces fall (complex and not linear cadences, which provoke strange Doppler effects) is as important as the variety of timbres built up. It’s a strategy, accumulating a rhythmic substratum of kinetic nature, that extends to virtually every track on the record: Packard reduces or augments the speed, varies the number and types of layers, in order to obtain results that are diametrically opposed: more obtuse and experimental on “Moment” or “Insist”, more ambient in the case of “Elsewhere” or “Window”, close to funk on “Although”. Only a certain dub beat, due to the echoes all the crossed repetitions produce rather than to a desire to sound Jamaican, seems to tie a record together of which the authentic personality comes from the acoustic instruments: the usual saxophones and accordions, which here and there slip in melodies through the cracks of the compact rhythmic network and even give “Moment” a nocturnal jazz feel, and most of all the pianos that appear everywhere. Pianos with a neo-classical air and minimalist vocation (the shadows of Steve Reich and Philip Glass appear in many of the tracks) that alternate expressionist harmonies with magical melodic flowerings, giving the album a mysterious and classic air, between warm and brainy; situating “Moment Again Elsewhere” in some place, indeterminate and fascinating, between ambient, minimalism and neo-classical music. Chamber ambient? That wouldn’t be a bad definition.