Roland Barthes called it 'the grain of the voice,' in writing of how a singer's vocal contours may tap into ineffable meanings above and beyond words and melody: a semiotics of sound colour in which text cedes to texture, and audio kicks come from tuning into tone tricks over lyrics. Now there may be no song sung on Anthropology Vol. 1, but its lines - liquid, labyrinthine - and the sounding arc of its dives - the shiver in its timbres - bring to mind the idea of grain. It comes from the sound's sheer materiality and bodily affect, and in Loren Dent's bent - channeling vectors of New Music, minimalism, ambient, postrock, and space music through a vibrant array of his own voicings.
Dent's Anthropology traverses considerable terrain: opener, "Introduction - Dreams and Concrete," moves from Feldman to Niblock, before picking up on Prt in transition to "This Thing We Enjoy," where borders of Basinskian melancholia are skirted,and a quiet Stars of the Lid glow flirted with. It ends up on "Another Rural Fantasy" and "Winter During Wartime"in a swooping fizzing orchestralism suggesting Christopher Bissonnette vs. Tim Hecker. The preceding parade of references is offered only by way of a rough guide, for the music of Anthropology is cast by Dent in tones he owns, more sweeping in scale than any of the above, great tonal gushes surging into swelling symphonics, then running off into pools of pop pointillism.
"One of the most impressive minimalist albums released in Austin" was the Austin Chronicle's unwittingly droll tribute to his 2007 coming-out, Empires and Milk. Such smalltown acclaim now seems more testament to a skilled craftsman sculpting with others' materials than the nascent auteur unveiled here. On Anthropology, it's as if Dent had returned, transformed, from an ambitious and expansive field trip through the history of digital and analogue ambience to splice his data with the DNA of the late-modernist classical canon. In the course of these grandiloquent revelations, he incidentally provides something of a survey of the field of Infraction's estimable back catalogue, taking in the early experimental drift of Colin Potter and Beequeen, through the slo-wave micro-symphonies of Kiln and Celer, to the new backwoods ambience of Northern and Adam Pacione. At times he heads even further out, into a writhing avant-classical soundmass redolent of a Ligeti, as in the dissonance-infested expanses of "An Archaeology of Tones" and the blasted grandeur of "The Loss of Eternal Life." It's the sound of A New Drone for the Tone Generation, pressing claims for Anthropology as this estimable label's most active and engrossing of studies yet. -igloo mag