Ethan Rose has a love for instruments that have been long
since disregarded. On previous albums and live performances, he has stuffed
himself into a room with 50 music boxes or dragged a player piano on stage with
And while hints of the original intention of these
instruments – as purely light entertainment – sometimes creeps into the music
that Rose makes with them, more of than not, the sounds have been stretched and
processed beyond recognition by a computer. The resulting sounds, though, often
become beautiful, experimental soundscapes.
For his latest album, Oaks,
Rose took inspiration and actual sounds from a 1926 Wurlitzer organ that is
currently providing musical accompaniment for skaters at a Portland, Oregon
skating rink (Oaks Park, which provided the name of the album). Using samples
recorded at the rink of both the organ and the sound of the inner workings of
the organ, he has created an album that evokes a heady sense of nostalgia. It
hearkens back to both the heyday of the rink and of the organ itself, which
used to sit in a movie theater scoring silent films.
Of course, anyone who has heard the organ being played live
would hardly recognize it if they were to pop this disc into their CD player.
As with his previous work, Rose fed the samples into a computer, applied
digital effects and made them sound rather modern. There are glints that shine
through the cracks of some of his rather thick compositions – the trill of the
celeste on “The Floor Released” and an identifiable reediness that runs
through “Mighty Mighty” for example – but otherwise, the album feels
like it was cooked up with a wall of expensive synthesizers and modulators.
In this sense, there is something rather virtuous about the
music that Rose makes. He simply wants to give these instruments a second life
before they are forgotten entirely. For the Wurlitzer organ at Oaks Park,
it means a chance to provide a haunting and beautiful soundtrack to a new
generation of listeners.
Standout tracks: “Mighty
Mighty,” “On Wheels Rotating” ROBERT HAM