Sana Shenai “Warm Former”

Track titles for improvisatory music are very often weird, often obscure, or often arbitrary, and most annoyingly seek to impose form on the formless. Rarely do they match the sound as perfectly as Warm Former’s opener “Lemonlark Meadows”. Splooging out a selection of sharp citrusy tones into a buoyant display of sweet bleep heaven and loops from the Land of Ooo, this LA duo plays around with their extensive selection of weird synths and modular gear. With the pealing sound of a dormitory full of alarms going off in springtime, it’s an apt analogous sound for the opening track of a project that’s been four years dormant.

The following eleven tracks fall just within the border territories of improvisational electronica, strobing maybe-melodies created in the gap between automation and intuition – though mostly on the side of loose structure rather than the side of the abstract or of endless noodling. The balance that Sana Shenai strike between indeterminate jamming and the sound of toes being dipped into the soundworlds of ambient techno, synth soundtrackers, contact mic work ruffage, and gorgeously sparkling loops is an outstanding example to other purveyors of modular jamming. When you consider the amount of improv from this style of setup that comes out brittle, confrontationally arty, or straight-up ‘meh’, Warm Former is even more interesting for its balance of being consumable but not commercial.

The vast majority of Warm Former manages to be loose but musically coherent without sitting in a jail of subgenre confines for any reasonable length of time. Shifting between moods like a gentle analog reimaging of Autechre’s restlessness, there’s warmth and humanity in the extremes of both the propulsion and layering in the accidental construction of (nearly title track) “Worm Farmer” and “Laqua”s forlorn stylophone ambience. The mood is on the main positive though despite the inherent abstraction, the black mold queasiness of “Wizard A Baby” and “Bir Capri”s anxious sci-fi swirls being the only things that give off a negative vibe. If reports are true that this album was culled from a decade of home recording setups, this must mean that there’s a Warm Former II on a hard drive somewhere. Right, Sana Shenai?

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