Experimental guitarist Dustin Wong's solo albums have always managed to tap into a well of deeply expressive emotional shades using a relatively minimal toolkit. Armed mostly with just a guitar, any number of pedals, and the occasional spare drum machine, Wong crafted epic and sprawling fits of joyful expansiveness like 2010's Infinite Love and Toropical Circle, his colorfully unfolding 2013 collaboration with Takako Minekawa. Right on the heels of that collaborative effort comes the lengthy solo excursion Mediation of Ecstatic Energy, a mostly instrumental exploration of looping, repetition, and cycles that occasionally congeals in near-pop moments of rhythm and melody. With 14 tracks of deeply repetitive guitar tones and polyrhythmic composition, some stretching past the six-minute mark, the album tends more toward meditation than mediation. The drippy plucked notes of "Emerald Atmosphere" melt into deep and stuttering bass rushes and eventually clinically precise drum samples to sew up all the loose rhythmic ends of the track. It's one of many highlights throughout the set, which leans either toward the frenetic energy Wong relied on as guitarist for Ponytail, as on tracks like the building melodic walls of sound and rhythm on "Helix Sky," or more abstract musings on tracks like "Cityscape Floated." The layers of loops, both squawky and washed-out, are shaken into being at times with tasteful use of drums and very minimal use of vocals on a track or two. Gorgeous album closer "Tall Call Cold Sun" laces up Mediation of Ecstatic Energy with a slowly growing guitar loop trading off with billowing vocal coos, ultimately becoming huge without boiling over. This album shows Wong at his most refined and compositional, maintaining the spontaneous spirit of his playing while delivering a final product more focused and satisfying than anything he's done before.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas