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Blue Lake - Sun Arcs [Repress]

Music that sounds like flowers opening in sunlight. This is beautiful and inspiring stuff.
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Blue Lake is the musical moniker of American born, Copenhagen based multidisciplinary artist and musician Jason Dungan, who signs to the Tonal Union imprint for the release of his new longform album ‘Sun Arcs’. It follows 2022’s release ‘Stikling’, earning a nomination for ‘Album of the Year’ at the Danish Music Awards plus warm praise from The Hum blog and musicians and DJs alike including Jack Rollo (Time is Away/NTS) and Carla dal Forno. A self taught player, Dungan began freely experimenting with self-built multi-string instruments, preferring to build his own hybrid 48-string zither and working in the realms of left-field ambient music, off kilter folk and improvised acoustic minimalism.

The starting point of ‘Sun Arcs’ saw Jason travel for a week alone to Andersabo, a cabin set in the idyllic Swedish woods just outside of Unnaryd, known also as the music project, festival and residency space which has been run by Dungan since 2016, hosting artists like Sofie Birch, Johan Carøe and Ellen Arkbro. Whilst writing 1-2 pieces per day, a conscious decision was made to leave behind everyday distractions and shut out the outside world to instead focus on the natural passage of time as Dungan recalls: “My only sense of time came from these daily walks out in the woods with my dog, and an awareness of the sun’s path as it moved across the sky each day.”

The album’s immersive world unfolds with the opener ‘Dallas’, an ode to his home state and a musical synthesis of these two disparate spaces (Texas and Denmark), the touchstones of Dungan’s life. A folk-esque single acoustic builds to a flowing arrangement of clarinets, organ and cello drones coupled with percussion. ‘Green-Yellow Field’ chimes in as the first of two solo oriented zither recordings twinned with the dreamlike title track ‘Sun Arcs’, both densely rich as cascading and overlapping harmonic tones resound. ‘Bloom’ emerges with a krautrock psyche before an eruption of cello drones, slide guitar and free-ranging zither playing, ushering in the anticipation of spring. With half of the recordings conceived in Andersabo, Jason returned to Copenhagen to form the album's centre piece ‘Rain Cycle’ which features a tempered Roland drum machine alongside shifting zither improvisations. ‘Writing’ explores the shimmering harp-like qualities of sweeping playing figurations with Dungan mapping out adjusted tuning “zones” on the zither for unconventional but creatively liberating effects. ‘Fur’ captures the feeling of openness and the momentum of time, seeing Dungan perform waves of solo clarinet, often in one takes and embellished with textural drones, a zither solo, and layers of guitar. ‘Wavelength’ the album's closer is fondly inspired by the film works of Michael Snow and Don Cherry’s seminal live album ‘Blue Lake’ (1974), as it builds out from a drone-generated zither chord and features an alto recorder solo. Dungan found a deep connection to Cherry’s stripped back performance ethos, focusing on the core beauty of minimal instrumentation creating a genre-less meeting between folk and jazz. A dialogue is formed between the solo and the bandlike performances, interlinked in a geographical duality with all finding a sense of commonplace as musical sketches of visited landscapes. The bountiful instrumentation ebbs and flows as further layers emerge with Dungan constructing his material much like an artist would, recording and reviewing, adding and subtracting.

Musically it portrays a form of double life led by an American-identifying person living in Scandinavia, and a new found presence in Denmark, seeking out underdeveloped marshlands and barren stretches of beach adrift from other rhythms and distractions. Highlighting their individual and potent importance Dungan concludes: “Both places feel like “me”, I think on some level the music is always some kind of self-portrait.” ‘Sun Arcs’ depicts the intricate balance of nature’s cycles and the paths outlined by the seasons, from a winter dormancy to a warm sun drenched scene. The album scales new glorying heights and further defines Dungan’s musical narrative, inhabiting a unique space in left-field, improvised and experimental music, borning his most accomplished compositions to date. A singular and visionary expression, drawing on an array of instruments and sound worlds with a renewed sense of joy and discovery.

The album's rich tapestry was mixed by Jeff Zeigler (Laraaji, Mary Lattimore, Kurt Vile / Steve Gunn) and mastered by Stephan Mathieu (Kali Malone, KMRU, Félicia Atkinson).

Edition Info

• 2024 Limited Clear Vinyl repress.

Released 26th January 2024

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Blue Lake - Sun Arcs [Repress]

Layering his custom-built 48-string zither with slide guitar, clarinet, and pump organ, the Texas native makes music that draws as much from drone and ambient as from jazz and Americana.
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