Gregg Kowalsky

L' Orange, L'Orange

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As a solo artist, Gregg Kowalsky is known for creating sound installations involving site-specific arrangements of cassette players, as well as dark electro-acoustic drone works. His recordings on labels like Kranky, Root Strata, and Digitalis are often minimal but highly considered and nuanced, and while his 2006 debut, Through the Cardial Window, is bright and shimmering, his Tape Chants releases are bleaker and more ominous. L'Orange, L'Orange is far less conceptual than most of his solo work, and it ends up being much more relaxing and optimistic than his usual output. Recorded after the composer moved to Los Angeles, the album features analog synthesizers (edited from recordings made during his decade-long Oakland residence) along with bells, pianos, and other acoustic instruments. Some pieces are adorned with tape hiss like his earlier material, but it sounds much warmer and more comforting, with the brief "Tonal Bath for Bubbles" every bit as light, fuzzy, and soapy as its title, and "Tuned to Monochrome" blissful enough to appear on a Laraaji album. L'Orange, L'Orange recalls the swirling psychedelia of Date Palms, Kowalsky's collaboration with Marielle Jakobsons, and while this release lacks the plodding drum machines of that group, there is a broken pulse to "Pattern Haze" and "Ritual del Croix," resembling a sunnier version of Loscil's glacial ambient dub. Even though the album is soothing and meditative, there's still a sense of excitement to it, keeping it captivating and engaging rather than merely pleasant. The energy level seems to dial down a bit during final piece "Blind Contour Drawing for Piano," and its echoing notes are perfect for a reflective comedown. Richly textured yet spacious and meditative, L'Orange, L'Orange is some of Kowalsky's most rewarding work yet.

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