Review: patchbaydoor – Visitors Bureau (self-released, Mar 18)

Sung Tongs ranks among my least favorite Animal Collective albums, but it has its moments, and the twelve consecutive ones that comprise “Visiting Friends” are simply magical. That track randomly popped into my head as I was getting off the highway yesterday, and now I know why: so I can compare it to the soothing drifts of Visitors Bureau (and not just because of the similar title). “moving expenses” opens this new album by Philadelphia artist Steven R. Hammer’s project patchbaydoor in much the same way as an early-morning warm shower; it’s an instant escape, a cocoon of comfort and safety, a diaphanous capsule of calm that distorts time and keeps the sharp claws of the real world at bay. I bring up “Visiting Friends” because this piece, as well as the following two, perfectly execute that phenomenon of simultaneous movement and stasis—i.e., the tones and textures that remain largely stagnant are so intoxicating that traditional progression is no longer needed. Hammer’s ethereal, often unintelligible vocals, curling in from the edges of the ambience like sweet steam both at normal pitch and distorted into chipmunk croons, make Visitors Bureau a much more personal affair than a lot of conventionally beautiful atmospheric music; on “ca_ways” they adopt a more central role, cycling between crystallization into languorous laments and dissolution into broken layers and bubbling glitches. The radiant resolutions of “breathworks” fully cement this release’s greatness, and if you hadn’t seen the AnCo comparison before you certainly will in this one. It concludes with just enough of a hint of darkness to immediately make me want to curl up in its swathing embrace yet again.

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