Sam Sowyrda – luminous horizons

 released April 29th, 2017
available on tape, CD, & digital

luminous horizons presents two new sonic realities by percussionist/composer Sam Sowyrda. This album marks the first solo recording by Sowyrda, whose malletKAT playing has anchored avant-pop heroes Cloud Becomes Your Hand since 2010. Sowyrda’s musical perspective draws on years of collaborative composing in the experimental puppet group Living Things, writing music for NJ-based dance company the Shua Group, co-directing the Mauricio Kagel tribute Kagel Nacht, and being active as a performer with the Dan Deacon Ensemble, Ashcan Orchestra, Peter Kerlin Octet, Skeletons, Eagle Ager, Aaron Siegel, and others.

luminous horizons brings together the conceptual focus of James Tenney, the restraint of Charlemagne Palestine, and reductionism of Julius Eastman with the spaciousness and simplicity of ambient artists like Brian Eno and Joanna Brouk. Particularly for a debut album, this collection showcases Sowyrda’s expansive imagination and demonstrates the vast sonic potential of his unique instruments.

occidental error conjures over a half hour of rolls, beating patterns, cascades, and clusters in an exploration of the harmonic idiosyncrasies of the vibraphone. Shifting static rhythms across the nodes and anti-nodes of the bars, Sowyrda brings out the inharmonicities that give the instrument its characteristic timbre. The constant pulsation gives way a slowly morphing drone, invoked from an instrument traditionally used for its percussive attack and smooth melodies. In the final section, overlapping interference patterns created by the discreet blending of out-of-tune sine waves take the “vibra” that is the instrument’s namesake and churn it into a waterfall of polyrhythmic shimmer.

For the title track, Sowyrda takes up a hammered dulcimer, fashioned by his father from an old piano. Using tiny steel rods as suspended bridges, Sowyrda creates a warping microtonal environment, featuring dense cluster chords and what sounds like a passel of gongs. While the sound world of occidental error is smooth and rolling, luminous horizons present a darker and more angular counterpoint, leaping from dense, noisy fog to an eruption of lustrous, modal lava, and showcasing Sowyrda’s range as a percussionist and drone conceptualist.