Evocative titles like Potential Landscapes catch my attention immediately. Tristan Kasten-Krause is a new name to me, but from the opening minutes of “Dawn Looming” and its droning strings that are the sound of a new world being born. Potential Landscapes masterfully harnesses the power of sound to create a universe unto itself, a place where emotional depth finds oceans and each new day is a chance to start over.
Process and collaboration are important on Potential Landscapes. Kasten-Krause works with sounds from a host of friends from Cloud Nothings’ Jason Gerycz to vocalist Lisel, violinist Carol Johnson and more. To create each piece, Kasten-Krause took fragments of sound his collaborators sent him, processed and edited them, and mapped out and built something new. There’s a level of trust involved on both ends of that exchange, letting your collaborators embrace their own practice and, in turn, trusting that you will keep the spirit of those pieces alive as something new is built. Clearly it worked out on Potential Landscapes.
When “Dawn Looming” sprawls out before you, sending aural mountains rising heavenward while you wipe the sleep from your eyes, it’s like waking up some place familiar, but turned on its head. Moving like a slow-motion predator, the piece takes its time before sinking its teeth in the waning moments as the drones take one last breath in resignation. It moves effortlessly into “Euphoria Cancel,” organic tones moving forward until a percussive bomb is dropped and the whole thing evolves into a pounding, repetitive rhythmic hustle. It’s overwhelming as a full grasp of this new world, this new life emerges.
Everything comes to a head on “From Thin Air,” though, and Lisel takes flight. Layered, wordless vocals perform aerial tricks, languidly drawing shapes in the sky that build in complexity until she pierces through the clouds and light breaks through. It’s freedom from the Melancholy strings rise beneath, a rigid foundation that allows her voice to ascend. It’s stunning. Kasten-Krause clearly understands the impact of “From Then Air” as he gives listeners a minute to decompress in the first minute or so of closer, “Contra.” Bowed strings – his bass in particular – groan and howl through 15 minutes of stolid sonic heft, an eerie, cacophonous meditation on how you’ve ended up in this strange place, and what it means to start again.