Review: Naps – Better to Give (Gertrude Tapes, Apr 1)

Admittedly, I didn’t listen to this the day it came out, but it turned out to be a great belated birthday present. Thanks Mr. Calhoun.

The first release I heard from Naps, the ambient project of Philadelphia artist Jason Calhoun, was his split with Ben Lovell’s Lung Cycles. While both sides impressed me, I was immediately drawn to the delicate atmospherics of Naps’ drones and field recordings, the two components introducing beauty both on their own and through their textural interactions. Better to Give picks up right where the split left off, with Calhoun exploring how found sound can affect and alter the presence of the ambience he so masterfully constructs. “Blind” is an almost disarming introduction, with closely captured crackles and crunches of leaves establishing an unusual contrast with the weightless drone that lurks behind. Better to Give doesn’t waste time with aimless experimentation, though; other than some tape hiss and occasionally tactile recordings, the pieces are dominated by Naps’ trademark sublime, seraphic tones that seem to simultaneously shift and stay the same. This isn’t meant to understate the value of the more abstract inclusions. Rather, Calhoun elects to accompany his sleepy hums with just the right amount of auxiliary elements to keep the tracks engaging, allowing for Better to Give to score a late-night drifting off or a midday reading session with equal effectiveness.