- Nathan Yoder
Recommended Listening: M. Sage - The Wind of Things
It's been mentioned on this site before, but we've noticed that our listening habits tend to be cyclical, following a seasonal path. As the ever-warming days lengthen, and we spend more time on front stoops and in backyards, we are increasingly drawn to acoustic sounds - strings, horns, reeds, skins, and voice. And while we have no idea if composer + producer + label owner Matthew Sage feels similarly, his new album The Wind of Things certainly indicates a shift away from his synthesized inclinations and toward natural tones and textures.
Sage currently lives in Chicago, but The Wind of Things is a travelogue of sorts. He grew up in Colorado, but his family is from rural Nebraska, and to us, his music groans like a classic Midwest porch. Perhaps more aptly, Geographic North describes Sage's sound as "living and breathing," but when we hear cricket chirps, clanging chimes, and thunder, we can feel those wood slats beneath our feet. Sage also spends time in Texas, watching wildlife on his in-laws' property. On Harbor Drive, the album's players mimic bird call, and later, you can catch real frog croaks. Lake Michigan is another location to which Sage pays tribute, and on a few compositions, water bubbles in and out like soft waves on sand.
M. Sage, photograph provided by GeoNorth.
To draw a comparison, we immediately heard Ernest Hood's classic Neighborhoods in The Wind of Things. Both are conceptual pieces tying memory to place. This concept informs the structure of both albums as well. Hood used zither to connect found sounds, making his album a dreamy summertime tale. Sage accomplishes the same feat with piano, strings, breath, and field recordings. He is not the lone contributor to this sonic collage, though. Far from it, in fact. Sage enlisted help from longtime collaborators, who together, perform as Spinnaker Ensemble. When hearing the album, you can tell that these musicians share history, as they subtly respond to each other in a style which feels fresh and exploratory. You get the feeling that the players are feeling their way along, just as surprised by each sound as you and I are.
We love GeoNorth and feature the label regularly on the site, but M. Sage's The Wind of Things is a real gem. The album is out everywhere tomorrow morning (just in time for Oregon sun!), and here is a link to the label's Bandcamp page. Make sure to bookmark it, as it's one you won't wanna miss.