Mark Tester “Oblivion Rhythms Revisited”

Mark Tester has become one of those artists whose new work I will always make a point to check out. Whether it’s solo, in his fantastic duo recordings with Landon Caldwell, or contributions to the inimitable Crazy Doberman, Tester is an uncategorizable force. He can do it all (check out this stellar compilation he and Caldwell put together, for example) and he always keeps me guessing. 

For his latest solo joint on the always-stellar Moon Glyph, Tester siphons bubbling melodies and aural cloud shapes from swirling galaxies frozen in time. Throughout these sonic miniatures, dizzying avenues rise from ashes, neon matrices dissolve into flames, and entire civilizations seem to emerge from a nostalgic fog before melting into metallic puddles. Contemplative exigence moves languidly through the twisted corridors of “Liquid Dance Memory Fade Into Mist.” Loping basslines intertwine with lightspeed hi-hats, rolling comfortably across string-infused pads like fading echoes spiraling away in the distance. It’s a million miles away from the homebody delight of “At Home in Limestone,” where repeating arpeggios glisten like a fresh coat of paint and whimsical leads warm up the kitchen for a night in. There’s something strangely wholesome about the world inside this song and I keep returning to its opulent gaze.

Elsewhere, futurist speed traps are blown past when “Subconscious Destinations” takes off, Tester’s stochastic beat keeping the cops at bay while zooming through glowing mazes and fluorescent plant kingdoms. “Land on Sea” is short, but especially sweet; a private moment between two lovers in public spaces, lonely piano chords flickering just out of reach. Album closer, “Temporary Parting Wave,” is more like a cheerful hello than a send-off, but that sense of humor and always-moving-forward feeling are two of Oblivion Rhythm Revisited’s biggest strengths. 

Nine-minute zoner, “The Invisible Band,” is at home in the morning stillness. Sunrise is a slow-moving kaleidoscope of orange, purple, and green on some imagined alien vista, conjuring a life in dreams, obscuring the actual reality of this moment. Everything here moves at snail speed, but we long for the races, long to feel the rushing wind against our skin. Tester channels oblivion in ways where the beauty decays, but the decay is where we feel at home. It’s endless and it’s out there, waiting. Oblivion Rhythm Revisited is a place we just as easily stay forever as leave behind. 

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