Review: Grisha Shakhnes – being there (Unfathomless, Oct 11)

Though much of the music that’s covered by this site tends to defy description, works as choice and subtle as Grisha Shakhnes’ being there are especially difficult to write about. Not the music itself per se, but its impact, the qualities that make it such an emotional experience. That being said, this doesn’t seem to hinder Shakhnes himself from providing a wonderfully succinct summary of his approach to the album: “I’ll just say that what has been increasingly important in my work… is this gap between what you know and what I know, between what I choose to tell you and what I choose not to, between the sounds you think you hear and you actually hear. The most significant difference between this release and the previous ones is probably my choice to eliminate some of this gap. My choice to let you know all these things; that this is a record about an artist, a musician, and his living room. It’s about his presence in this room. It’s about his environment, and his relationship with his environment. It’s about [the] listener’s relationship to the artist’s environment and also his own environment. And it’s about listening and the choices we make—as artists and as listeners.” Such simple yet evocatively relationary language hits at the core of being there, a work that’s ultimately about representing and creating connections; conveyed to the listener are the comfort of recognizable environmental sounds, the wordless conversation Shakhnes is engaged in with those sounds (one of my favorite examples of this is his call and response to flutters of birdsong midway through “Occurrences at the End of a Curve”), and the moments of otherworldly beauty when the borders between artist and environment fall away completely. Though entirely unique, it’s another fantastic entry in the genre that Thomas DeAngelo so aptly dubbed “focused ennui.”

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