Review: Spacial Absence – Lifespan of a Mayfly (Nature Noise Wall, Apr 9)

In my opinion, quality over quantity should be a guiding mantra used by almost all music-makers. It’s much better for fans to anticipate well-spaced-out new material and value a few excellent releases rather than be overwhelmed by unrelenting prolificacy, which almost always diminishes the value of each individual release. In some areas of music, this problem is unfortunately more prevalent than in others; wall noise is an illustrative example. The artists I always seem to appreciate most are those who seem to put the most time and deliberation into their work: Little Fictions, A View from Nihil, Mawile’s Fake Tears, Dirac Sea, etc. This isn’t to say that more prolific wallers just churn stuff out indiscriminately (though some of them certainly do), but the impression one gives to one’s audience is important in this regard. Spacial Absence, one of several musical projects helmed by D.C.-based musician Caden McMahan, is a great example of refined output curation: Lifespan of a Mayfly is the first release under the alias since 2017’s spectacular Primal Machinery. This new album follows a similar path as the last as it presents 12 segments of environmental abstraction. McMahan has never been concerned with obscuring source; like Primal Machinery, many of the tracks on Lifespan of a Mayfly are recognizably field recordings that have been heavily processed and manipulated, and the titles often give a hint as to what was being examined: in the more lucid moments of “Broken Water,” for example, the unmistakable sounds of rushing water currents can be heard. But here the removal from reality is also frequently ramped up even further. Elastic, percussive textures make “Plastic Rain” one of the most unique and enthralling walls I have heard in a long time, and unlike “Broken Water” neither its content nor its title make its origins easily discernible. You have to hear Lifespan of a Mayfly to believe it; somehow, across a 56-minute runtime that seems like half that, McMahan displays a mastery of a wide array of contemporary wall noise approaches, from detached glitch-scapes and digitally contorted streams to earthy contact mic bubbling and spatially isolated crackle. And if reading reviews isn’t your speed (though you’ve gotten this far), just listen to “Unwelcome Technology” and try to tell me it isn’t the craziest shit you’ve heard all year.

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