By Daniel Gottlieb
The weird thing about Zoning In on this Ga'an record right now is that all the music on it was actually released in the Summer of 2009. For nearly two years, the six tracks on this self-titled LP were floating around on limited-run cassette. There is a certain anonymity that comes with a tape release in the days of the LP/CD/MP3 triad. Music released two years ago to little attention seems a lot less cherished than that "diamond in the rough" you uncovered from 15-20 years ago. Happily, this Chicago four-piece got their message-in-a-bottle moment when Captcha Records reissued the work as a 12" vinyl pressing. Upon listening, it's hard to imagine that this inconspicuous cassette could have been quietly swept under the carpet.
Ga'an strikes us immediately with its immense, visceral energy, its totalizing vision and sound. For a "prog" record, however, it reveals a strong minimalist ethic, and very little in the way of virtuousity or unnecessary fanfare. Like the operatic prog-rockers Magma, Ga'an know how to be ambitious without falling back on the self-indulgence of the elongated instrumental solo. Instead of distracting digressions or dead-ends, they channel their energy into dynamics, levels, and texture. In standout passages "I of Infinite Forms Pt. II" and "Vultures of the Horn," it takes only the most nuanced of key changes-- like the sly introduction of a keyboard line over some stumbling drums-- to shift the sound from a haunting death march to a wash of spaced-out textures. In this, Ga'an are similar to Isis, using subtle shifts in dynamics to pummelling and entrancing effect.
Lindsay Powell's (Fielded) repeated incantations and muted operatics adds something eerie and mesmerising to this music. In standout track "Servant Eye", they curl into glassy synths and echoing chants like a double-helix-- until that is, we are caught off-guard by a blast of drums, and shuttled into a heavy mid-section. In "I of Infinite Forms Pt. I," the bass mutates from tight, pulsating lines to the slack and the sludgy. Technique-heads will appreciate drummer Seth Sher's controled chaos-- always threatening to collapse into a new time signature or pattern, but always only threatening.
Ultimately, Ga'an is the sound of four people merging into a single unified sound, as imaginatively stimulating as it is audibly engrossing. Ditch reality for a wondrous universe of bell sounds; of synths, medieval and rich like a Gregorian chant; of marching rhythms and keyboards.
Ga'an is out now via Captcha Records