It is crucial to rid our ears and brains of the currently prevailing garbage, especially in recent years. This terrific record serves as evidence that Jim Denley’s SplitRec is among the most effective labels for this kind of purification. The Hidden Valley, recorded in the Budawang Mountains (yeah, I’m feeling envious), is a classic example of improvisational ecology built on respect for the land and those who protect it; in this case, the Yuin, longtime residents of unceded Aboriginal territory. The genuine pleasure this writer experienced while deepening his knowledge of the quartet is equal to his ignorance of the geopolitical implications of the location in question. But none of this diminishes the enjoyment of the album. The performers appear wholly absorbed in the local environment, surrounded by organic, animal, and just faintly “modern” sounds (you can barely hear the distant hum of an airplane at one point, unless it was a figment of my imagination…), as they play – or beat – various types of wind instruments, objects, stones, trees, and mix Stolz’s charcoal paintings. Providing detailed descriptions would be of little assistance, but it is important to emphasize the significance of conscious listening. One must be open to noticing minutiae that, more than those of a musical statement, relate to priceless slivers of existence. A musician is likely aware of this connection to the intangible at such junctures, knowing the answers to all questions that aren’t required to ask, completely appreciating the union of sound and stillness, on par with all other living things. Not necessarily human.
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