Ethan W.L. – The Pink House
1.5.22 by Matty McPherson
It’s early January and new things are afloat everywhere. We turn our attention to Seattle, WA, headquarters of the esteemed Drongo Tapes operation setting up for their 47th release and 1st of the 2023 season. What’s this? They’re asking us to turn our attention to the Green Mountain State, Vermont, for a selection and smattering of selections from a film entitled the Inventor Crazybrains and the Girl Called Bird, aka “The Pink House?” Color me intrigued, Drongo, color me intrigued.
Ethan W.L. is a sizable portion of “the big nest” recording project, although Ethan set out for Vermont in 2021 to help film and compose a score for an independent feature. And lo and behold, he brings a series of riches and “film appropriate” American primitive guitar finger picking back not just for the silver screen, but for our own home listening. No such thing exists in the big nest catalog, partially because Ethan really had not pivoted with such devotion into playing acoustic guitar. The acoustic was acquired last year at a thrift shop, and that which became a catalyst for a series of sonic explorations deeper into folk, bluegrass, and blues music that the big nest catalog has yet to feature.
The Pink House does have function as the film soundtrack it was composed for; in particular humongous pieces like Bird that seemed designed for room tone droning and Nora’s House, which has rustle and bustle, is reminiscent of the ambient dread that Marble Hornets had tapped into over a decade back. As well as his first two pieces, “I Will Rise” and “The Pink House” that amply build off Traditional Melodies, while checking the boxes of someone creating motif-oriented, thematic musics. “Ompompanoosuc” is a piano piece that lets its notes often breath and reverberate as a balance from the guitar, while also serving to highlight an emotionally broad moment. Yet, the decision to provide these pieces, especially in their placement, gives Ethan’s exploration more resonance. It feels as much a document of personal discovery and tribulation to a tradition that found him, begets over an hour of jams and fingerpicking that could become your own winter delight. And therein lies what makes this sudden shocker of a release, only seven days into the year mind you, such a delight.
The few big nest-esque moments come near the end, and leading to them is a humongous trove of stunners. And without traditional percussive, Ethan’s ability to pull tenacious thumps out of the guitar give each track robustly rudimentary pace and melody. character that savors long after the campfire. The harmonic razor-fingery loops of “Mad River Lament” present one such dance. Meanwhile, rustic blues that peek through the chords of “Appalachian Gap”. The yearning, steadfast run of “Indian Love Call” that paces itself in adding small surprises and a tempo kick that feels of it is detailing a small tumble. The process is often similar between the cuts, but the change in tuning and reference points give a flair.
Perhaps it’s best documented and captured on White River Rag’s. The dilatory pacing harkens to a sweet spot between High Aura’d’s works for Unifactor and Astral Editions, as much as the blues traditions that 75 Dollar Bill can be tethered to. The tracks incorporates a spectral drone that hits akin to a low winter sun coming through beams in the house, before finding a galloping pace that giddies-up with finesse. It still drops out of a shock, coming back in more ragged glory during its finale. And there, I’m left more curious than ever as to when the big nest is incorporating acoustic guitar into its field of vision.
Edition of 75 available at Drongo Tapes’ Bandcamp