Genre-Bender’s Plunge into Ambience
Angel Deradoorian, former bassist and co-vocalist of Dirty Projectors and collaborator with the likes of Avey Tare and Flying Lotus, released her ambient, 29-minute EP on Anticon in October of this year, following the release of her excellent debut album The Expanding Flower Planet in 2015. On this debut album, as well as on her debut EP Mind Raft from 2009, Deradoorian displayed tendencies for contrast: she intersected folky guitars, R&B-style bass and psychedelia throughout the track-listings at times seamlessly and at other times drastically, morphing genres into a new sound completely unique to herself. On Eternal Resistance, however, she tries something new by diving into the sphere of minimalism and maintaining the ambiance throughout the record.
Deradoorian starts the EP off with the soft but powerful “Love Arise.” It begins with an electronic hum that remains the primary instrumentation throughout the song. Her gentle, fleeting voice tenderizes the otherwise sparse sounds as they layer on top of one another and harmonize with each other. By the last minute of the track, quiet clacks of bells and wooden instruments escalate until they overpower the initial hum. Reminiscent of East and South Asian religious ceremonies, “Love Arise” climaxes into a haziness peppered with lyrics and moans of vulnerability. With such a strong opener, Eternal Recurrence set the standards high for the rest of the EP.
While the eight-minute track “Return-Transcend” and its unhurried, steady buildup of celestial voice samples, synthy piano riffs and spiritual lyrics continue the intrigue and creativity that “Love Arise” had, the rest of the EP fails to reach the same levels of complexity. The religious and mythic “Ausar Temple” was chillingly simple because it only had ringing gongs and bells, finishing off with an unsettling buzz that quickly fades into silence. Its simplicity was blood-curling and eerie but was nothing more than a moody interlude, leaving listeners displaced and on-edge.
This could have set the stage for a powerful song to follow suit, but “Nia in the Dark” felt sonically flimsy in comparison to the Eternal Recurrence’s openers. Deradoorian’s otherwise ethereal voice sounds strained and uncomfortable in her efforts to enunciate. At this point in the EP, the minimalism on each of the song begins to blend together. Though the plucky strings and piano create an interesting symbiosis with the wood-wind instrument, the track meanders melodically. However, what redeems “Nia in the Dark” are its colorful lyrics that highlight the intimate solidarity and warmth she offers to the friend she wrote the song for. Deradoorian reminds her friend of their worth to her, saying, “In your soul, in your shadow / Grows the finest of the lines” that are “drawn in charcoal” and “poured in wine.” In moments like these, Deradoorian showcases her lyrical prowess, albeit for an otherwise lukewarm track.
Even during the Eternal Recurrence’s final tracks, Deradoorian’s immense vocal capabilities are muddied by how harshly her voice drudges on. This takes away from the other layers of these songs, such as elegance of the reedy wind instruments and the strong-willed piano on “Mountainside” or the distinctive synthesized pianos and abstract bass and wind instruments on “Mirrorman.” The EP ends on a solemn but hopeful note: it talks of heartbreak and self-disillusionment that can be resolved only when she learns to “find comfort in believing life lives from letting go.”
Eternal Recurrence reaches new highs and lows in Deradoorian’s solo work. Though it has its moments of beauty and profundity, because of its repetitively sparse nature and Deradoorian’s vocal experimentation on the later tracks in the EP, Eternal Recurrence just barely misses the sweet spot that would have rendered this EP otherworldly.