Joseph Blane: The Spider Room (2022)

Avante-garde artist Joseph Blane’s debut album, “The Spider Room,” was released on November 18 on Submarine Broadcasting Company. It was entirely improvised and captured on a cheap Sony recorder in an abandoned school building’s music room, where remnants of various instruments lay strewn about – many out of tune or broken beyond repair. The two improvisatory tracks that result are 30:34 of fascinating harmony as much as disharmony. Aside from his electric guitar, you will also hear Blane playing piano, violin, flute, harmonica, glockenspiel, and a percussive egg. 

“Part I / Beneath The Dust,” starts with a glockenspiel, bright but also un-bright for its brokenness, carrying over a violin that’s at first atonal but gradually gains in tonality so that by 0:20 it is on its way to become a frantically staccato howl. A two-note piano octave-jump comes and goes in the first minute with minimalistic variances afterwards. A second violin comes in at 1:17 and is very similar to the first violin but softer and sweeter sounding. A flute begins at 2:05 and rhythmically snuggles up with the violins. Around 3:00 the piano starts to have more going on and at times gives the impression of a melody. The piano really stands out because it is slow, even, paced, and noncontinuous whereas all of the other instruments are frantic and never seem to pause. The piano and glockenspiel are both tonally satisfying, but the piano much more so because the glockenspiel’s ever present, high-speed, and unwavering continuity eventually causes ones ear to automatically ignore it to some extent but never wholly. It’s an otherworldly listening experience and exercise in letting your mind wander where the music leads. At 6:17 a quiet guitar comes in and the nine-minutes of ensuing jazzy improvisation is impressive and delightful. At 12:47 the piano begins playing beautiful broken chords that are highly suggestive and then at 13:43 it descends into dissonant tone clusters. The song ends in a craze of guitar, flute, violin, and glockenspiel.

“Part II / Above The Dust,” has a percussive egg keeping a gentle rhythm right away, which is all the more pleasurable after the untethered rhythms of Part I, while the piano and guitar play an identical melody line. Irish flute comes in at 0:50 and the piano and guitar go their separate ways from their matched melody lines but remain in the same key and so retain consonancy. Perhaps most noticeable of all is the relative absence of the glockenspiel – but when it is subtly used like at 0:06 and 0:10 it’s actually supporting the other instruments and no longer a totally freeform cacophony. The violins are not as prominent with the guitar and piano being spotlit. Part II sounds like it very well might’ve been composed beforehand rather than improvised for the additive interplay of all the instruments and their timing is quite remarkable especially when taking into account that it’s only Blane performing and recording everything in one take with almost no editing.

The Spider Room showcases Blane’s immense creativity and skill. If you listen to this undistracted and focus intensely on the sounds, you will imbibe a wealth of meaning and joy.

You can stream or purchase The Spider Room by Joseph Blane on Bandcamp:

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