There is an incredible point in both of these Seven Storey Mountain editions – I made it to be about 27 minutes into III and 25 minutes into IV – where I subconsciously cease to make distinction between individual energies and start see these pieces as coherent, inseparable bodies of sound. What begins as a very acute and grounded conversation loses structure as call merges into response, and my ability to identify reactive gestures starts to slip away; all of a sudden, each member seems to be wired into an intangible, centralised instinct, and while each piece begins as a collection of minds criss-crossing to negotiate a common point of intersection, each piece ends as one pure thought extending down the line of time, comprised of a collection of players in instruments operating in euphoric parallel. It is explicitly noted that the Seven Storey Mountain project has no religious connections. Nonetheless, I’m somewhat disturbed by the fact that the common energy that consumes both pieces has no clear point of origin, and the communal state that it is attained through both sessions seems to descend on the players from an ethereal nowhere.
Both pieces start in detachment and consciousness. On III, Matt Moran’s vibraphones form strange shapes that hover above the ground and rotate; it seems to me like a rather difficult point of entry, meaning that the opening phrases of the other musicians feel strained and queasy, as though adapting to an unfamiliar axis of orientation. On IV, the opening feels more sedate and co-operative: Yeh’s fluttering violin brushes gently against panting drum skins and a central radiator hum (from Ben Vida, perhaps?), tugging the piece along like a wagon, before a frictional uneasiness starts to slither over the players’ faces and hands, bringing the lush, casual placidity into question. On both occasions, there seems to be an active dislodging of habit and instinct that allows the totality of Seven Storey Mountain to swoop in and provide new grounding (on IV, the sudden thumps and bells around the 19-minute mark seem to embody this explicitly), carrying the music upward into a wondrous euphoria flatline. Even when III reaches its most destructive point – with David Grubbs’ guitar gushing between splintering wood and bone like the sweat and blood by-product of the energy vacation – or when IV falls into an anti-gravity of brass tones, raindrop vibraphone and homeless tape sounds – it is achieving a most meditative form of a obliteration, existing in a paradoxical void between chaos and the absolute.