Info Echo Park 
"Echo Park"
by Willamette
Infraction Records (INFX 051 LP)
"Measuring Heartbreak"
"The Motorist"
"Buried Presidents"

Willamette's URL

Northern website


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

Willamette may be an unfamiliar name but its members are no newbies; a side-project by the brothers Chong, better known to ambience chasers as Northern, whose album Drawn warmed our ears back in 2007. For Willamette the brothers are joined by Joseph Edward (aka Automobile Swift and Pasture) and cellist, Danny Norbury. Their 'minimal works for tape, silence, voice and various stringed instrumentation' operate at the interstices of space and volume, with quasi-classical cadences offering 'romantic music for the old and lackluster.' The project, started some years back and completed in 2009, finally finds release in Echo Park, a set of dust-blown elegies of doleful mien.

Davin Chong professes to be 'rarely interested by current music, and instead enjoys eating white rice, taking in ancient sounds and tending to indoor ferns.' Maybe, and if so Willamette’s sound ends up felicitously prescient - not far removed from a strain of harmonic drone and postclassical composition lately promulgated by labels such as Hibernate, Low Point, Dead Pilot, Under the Spire, and Heat Death; echoes too of usual suspects like Arvo Pärt, William Basinski, Stars of the Lid, The Caretaker, Philip Jeck, and Celer. Infraction’s own Kiln (Thermals) and Milieu (Beyond the Sea...), as well as Andrew Deutsch’s Loops Over Land are also reference points, if not influences. With Kevin Chong, allusions to 'an old cassette of Tallis and Byrd's polyphonic compositions' that 'brought about a permanent, strangely alienated musical revelation' are further indicative of the project's emotional and musico-cultural ethos. Of Joseph Edward, we hear of 'an automobile accident as a lesson in silence, Joseph began composing and rarely recording works of a slowed and stilled nature.' (it's all here). Indeed Edward's way with a well-turned loop, already evident in work as Automobile Swift and Pasture, feeds through into the likes of "Measuring Heartbreak" and "The Motorist," contributing in large measure to what gives Echo Park its memorable affective caché. Heavier emotional freight comes through Norbury's cello, pronounced on "Escaping the Memory," where the hitherto restrained tenor finally cedes to a more overtly stated sad-happy melancholia. Best of all may well be the outgoing "Buried Presidents," on which Norbury's undergirding of gorgeous looping chord-lilts with richly resonant twilight shadings again gives added expressive weight. All in all, Echo Park is another triumph for the estimable Infraction.

Also upcoming from Willamette is Always in Postscript on Own, a score for Charles Lim Yi Yong's film All the Lines Flow Out, screening at this year's Venice film festival.

Review by Alan Lockett


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