Review: Dylan Burchett – bread (self-released, Jan 18)

Solo tabletop improvisation usually ends up being quite intimate even with the most maximalist of sonic results; there’s something distinct about the direct relationship between the performer and the actions they take that the listener can always pick up on, a lurking yet palpable personality. Intimacy arises differently from both of the two main recording approaches a solo improviser can take, a dichotomy well-represented by two Keith Rowe releases, The Room (Erstwhile, 2007) and Live at Fairchild Chapel (Idiopathic, 2015); the former evokes claustrophobic and microscopic sound-worlds through line-in capture, while the latter makes the performance space a perceptible presence in the music, shrouding Rowe’s prepared guitar clatter and ghostly radio transmissions in shadow. I provide these examples because Dylan Burchett’s bread, a single 37-minute improvisation, is somewhere in between the two, making use of both direct and overhead recording for a delicate domestic odyssey. A range of sound sources form the basis for the track (“motors, fans, contact mics, objects, hard drives, speakers, computer”); we hear sine waves and digital crackle materialize in the liminal space between action and result as Burchett’s array of devices are arranged and activated by hand. There’s a lot of perceivable movement near the beginning, but starting at around the ten-minute mark everything begins to coalesce into a sublime, crystalline drone, full of light mechanical whir and rattle. Burchett’s presence returns around halfway through, reaching around in preparation for new sonic activity as soft samples continue independently. There’s a tremendous amount of restraint at work here, and despite its undeniable abstractness bread’s subtlety make it an accessible, cozy mid-afternoon listen for anyone with an adventurous ear.