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Growing: The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light

Chris Toenes


The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2004-10-18
UK Release Date: Available as import

Northwest duo Growing like to pump up the volume. They inflate it into round shapes that float around the room along thick sheets of feedback and guitar wrangling, hanging like the silvery balloons Andy Warhol called "Clouds." Kevin Doria and Joe Denardo share duties on guitar and bass, taking the tones of their strumming and riffs and bending them into long streams of pure drone and delay. Under all the layers of fuzz lies an ever-shifting jigsaw of moods and shapes, embodying the sound as substance with emotional heft. Otherwise, this would be nothing more than formless wanking. Doria and Denardo lock their crosshairs on ambience and epiphany noise; not just functioning as audio wallpaper, this noise breathes and engages the listener.

This multi-hued spectrum of pulses and washes takes the next step past the minimal compositions of early modern composers like Terry Riley and Iannis Xenakis, or even the ambient work of Brian Eno. Growing attempts, and often succeeds, at swiftly ushering those pioneers' line of thinking into a new realm, where heavy amperage and guitar overload fit into the same pegs as classical instruments and electronics in the pursuit of pure sound. The opener here, "Onement," starts with a chime of guitar undulating like a metronome, gaining density with each stroke. Once the bowed cymbal starts cutting like water through tissue, the progression never stops, building to a beautiful array of dissonant tones. "Anaheim II" works on a vibrating guitar line, ragged strips of metalloid feedback bobbing up and down in fits. Once inside this thick wall of aural resonance, it becomes immediately obvious that the source of each sound is beside the point; the except being the incorporation of natural sounds like the field recording samples of birds or insects in "Primitive Associations/Great Mass Above," perhaps the most idyllic moment on the record. When they go abstract, as in "Anaheim II," Growing takes their sonic potential to the outer limits, and when playing it serene, like "Primitive" or the nearly emotionally moving "Epochal Reminiscence," the music is so blissful, it is arguable it could be used in meditation.

The title of Growing's record comes from a paper written at the turn of the century by one Bainbridge Bishop, a scholar and inventor who created the color organ, an instrument capable of producing sounds and light corresponding to one another. The scope of the album's creative range bears out some of Bainbridge's ideas, perhaps. Are Doria and Denardo entertaining the idea that lining up certain tones and frequencies of sound in the right order and time will allow one to see a color, essentially producing a rainbow with their music? Who knows, as theirs is the pursuit of a higher form of cerebral music. With The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light, Growing have created a sound environment hardly reserved for academics or mathematicians. It's for anyone who knows how to rock to big guitar hum and has always enjoyed when bands tip their guitars onto their amps and turn the knobs. It's easy to get into their world, and what a lush, wondrous place it is.

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