The late ambient music pioneer Ernest Hood returns to the woods

By | November 23, 2022

In 2019, certainly one of Portland’s nice cult albums acquired a much-needed reissue and remaster.

1975 by Ernest Hood Neighborhoods has lengthy been cherished within the experimental music world as among the finest debut albums of ambient music (rhythmless atmospheric music designed to reward each deep listening and shut consideration). A former jazz guitarist from Portland and co-founder of KBOO, Hood misplaced his potential to play guitar after being struck down with polio and doing Neighborhoods with a singular palette of zithers and early synths.

Hood solely pressed 1,000 copies of the document, and for years the one method most individuals might take heed to it with out shelling out triple digits on a vinyl copy was by a muddy YouTube rip that obscured the richness. sound and tactile particulars of the album. Russ Gorsline’s remaster and reissue of Freedom to Spend deserve all of the Grammys on the planet for bringing a virtually misplaced basic again to life.

On November 11, Freedom to Spend and Brooklyn label RVNG Intl. printed Again within the woods, the second album by Hood (who died in 1995). Comprising archival recordings minimize between 1972 and 1982, Wooden is a way more quick album, an album that I believe newcomers will admire much more than Neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods devoted lengthy intervals to the sector recordings that Hood made round West Linn and different Portland suburbs. Full of mundane conversations and distant pure and animal sounds, the recordings opened a portal to Portland’s previous.

Wooden additionally makes use of discipline recordings, together with idyllic birds on “Noonday Yellows” and a well-recognized northwest bathe on “Rain,” however they’re woven into the material of the music itself. Whereas solely about 60% of Neighborhoods truly consisted of music, Wooden is a complete immersion in Hood’s idiosyncratic sound. For simply over half-hour, zithers streak throughout the stereo discipline like a fowl spreading its wings as water rushes in and crickets whisper softly within the distance.

These discipline information are considerably much less particular than these of Neighborhoods. On a monitor from that album, you possibly can hear an elder speaking in regards to the wreckage of a ship nonetheless sitting on the backside of the Columbia River. The previous man’s recollections had been woven into the material of the album together with Hood’s, and it was laborious to not marvel if the wreckage was nonetheless there – and who the previous man was and what his childhood was like.

In the meantime, the rain on “Rain” may as nicely have been recorded in Wisconsin. The darkish thriller of the Cascadian Forest has impressed artists, from bands like Agalloch and Wolves within the Throne Room to indie-rockers like Phil Elverum to filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt (previous pleasure), Rob Reiner (assist me) and Scott Cooper (Wooden). These creators seize the primitive, pagan and menacing high quality of the northwest woods, as Wooden evokes a pleasing stroll within the park.

All the things has one Bambi-ish, a Thomas Kinkade high quality that gives a innocent and tamed view of nature. The music doesn’t counsel any vastness, hazard, worry or thriller. He merely exhales in appreciation how lovely the whole lot is, as if he had been perpetually sniffing a flower.

Few artists can mix such unconventional instrumentation into one thing so pure and resonant, and arch zithers and primitive synths make it sound a lot weirder than your common New Age therapeutic retailer band. It simply sounds superior, and it is laborious to think about anybody captivated by synth curiosities (just like the lately reissued Mort Garson Plantasia of Mom Earth) will not fall in love with it.

Wooden is a doozy of an archival discover, and it really works nice for those who’re simply attempting to chill out. However this isn’t a real evocation of the forests of Oregon.