Fascinating music

Serene Synth Dreams by Cate Kennan and Oddly Jaunty Library Music by Gel-Sol

Cate Kennan, “Sundial” (Post-Present Media)

It’s an exceptionally rare pleasure when the music of an unknown artist instantly delights you. (By “you” I mean me.) Veteran music critics are used to 90% of songs and albums, which leaves them meh or downright exasperated. Kudos to Cate Kennan, keyboardist/guitarist/bassist from Los Angeles whose debut album The arbitrary dimension of dreams offers 12 concise episodes of a sound reverie that protects you from the horrors of the world with the greatest subtlety.

Kennan’s press release Post-present media compares his music to that of refined synth masters like Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster and Harmonia, Malcolm Cecil of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band and the English eccentrics of Deux Filles. That’s sort of accurate, but more strongly present are serene but slightly melancholy moods reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Mort Garson around Plantasia.

But unlike the Boards of Canada tracks, low frequencies are rare on The arbitrary dimensions of dreams; instead, Kennan uses an array of keyboards (Serge Modular, Roland Juno-106, Korg, Wurlitzer, etc.) and guitar to create hazy, mysterious auras. His is an airy sound that never comes across so evident in its emotional thrust or melodic contours. It’s not exactly relaxing music, although it’s meditative, and it probably can’t be classified as “healing” music either, but it does kind of make you feel lighter and more lucid. .

“Sundial” begins in utter enchantment, guest guitarist Scott Gilmore’s instrument reaching an almost harp-like delicacy in its hypnotic and graceful rise as a synth simulates a sighing tone somewhere between flute and ocarina. Kennan constructs a scenario of extreme tenderness and poignant complexity. I can’t wait to learn more about this promising musician.

Gel-Sol, “Nightshade” (Thematic Wax)

The pandemic has proven to be a creative boon for Duvall’s multi-instrumentalist Frost Floor (Andre Reichel). He claims to have recorded hundreds of tracks since lockdown, including the two epic ambient joints on the recently released 84 Minutes kosmische zoner Canadian mist.

Reichel also immersed himself in the stylistically omnivorous world of library music, playing multiple instruments to produce the myriad mood-enhancing sounds that characterize this obscure corner of the music industry. The beginnings of Reichel’s latest obsession surface on the single “Nightshade” b/w “Handcuffed and Stuffed”, released by the major local label Wax Thématique. (You can pre-order it here.)

This change in direction may surprise some. Gel-Sol is best known in Northwestern musical circles for his heady and sometimes whimsical ambient explorations, plunderphonic and krautrock on albums such as Zetaworld, Gel-Sol’s adventures beyond the world of plunderand Horse head bookend. He’s also one of the area’s biggest progressive rock fans, leading the PROG DJ party at Hazlewood Bar. All that enthusiasm serves Gel-Sol well on this 7-inch.

“Nightshade” creeps over snarky keyboards, haunting cuica moans reminiscent of Airto Moreira’s work with Miles Davis, and skewed cha-cha beats before an incongruous, playful synth melody soars. skyward and release all the tension the intro has built up. Reichel proceeds to stack three distinct keyboard patterns, each more enchanting than the last. At the last minute of this 3:33 gem, the listener has the ridiculous hope that a better world is possible, somehow…thanks to the sheer benevolence of seductive melodies and amazing stamps.

This single portends many more interesting permutations on the library music moves of the Gel-Sol chameleon – an album is in the works for Wax Thématique.


Gel-Sol’s release party for “Nightshade” is Thursday, September 1 at Hazlewood Bar at 8 p.m. It’s free to attend.