Coupler - Gifts From The Ebb Tide

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:5 Release Date:2017-11-17

Listening to Lambchop albums you always felt this constant electronic ‘noise and garble’ that gave the music yet another dimension and made it all that much richer. This particularly goes for their most recent release Flotus, where the electronics were even more prominent. One of the men responsible is Ryan Norris, who also runs a more or less solo project under the name Coupler.

For his fourth run as Coupler, Gifts From The Ebb Tide, the project turns into a quartet that included Rodrigo Avendano (treatments and snare), Matt Glassmeyer (various reeds and voice) and Rollum Haas (synths and something called white noise snare). Norris calls this a “creative organization”, that is supposed to create “deliberate ambient music”. As Norris envisions it, such music is to transcend “non-intention, non-deliberateness and similarly a potential level of non-engagement on the part of the listener” that ambient music usually creates. A very noble and inventive idea, but do Norris and the guys succeed in this? This time around, not really.

Maybe he was more successful in the previous three efforts, but here it works only in few and far between moments. Maybe the intention was to make ambient music that engages, i.e., keeps the listener’s attention, but in most instances, while your attention is there, the music itself does not engage you, at least in a positive manner. One of the tracks, “Invention 2 - Pattern Recognition” in its visual version includes a stop motion video that was created using a special software. Watching the video, it makes sense what Coupler was attempting. But then, why not make everything on the album as a video? Maybe the intention was for the listeners to create their own images in their minds since all of the four tracks are ‘Inventions’ with specific definitions. My personal problem was that, for example with “Invention 1 - Dreaming of Strange Continents,” I had no visual stimulation created by the music, no continents, even ‘ordinary ones’, or anything else for that matter, nor was the music able to present the vision musicians initially wanted to present.

A shame though, since the musicians obviously knew what they wanted to do and obviously had the capabilities to do so. Unfortunately, the real juice seems to have mostly disappeared somewhere between the wires.

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