Dustin Wong: Mediation Of Ecstatic Energy
Similar Artists: Robert Fripp, Mark McGuire, Manual Gottsching
Genre: Guitar Pedals, FX
Label: Thrill Jockey
How often does music make you break out into laughter? For me, that rare feeling of joy that comes with a band that is so bursting at the seems with its own excitement is one of those special somethings I crave for in music. This laughter comes from a strange place though, as it’s not the same laughter that would arise from a joke or communal conversation. It’s a happiness that’s reflective of overall well being and sense of purpose rather than anything momentary. Ponytail were one of those bands who were able to propel be into this aroused state, and it’s why their breakup after the sunshine extremity of Do Whatever You Want All The Time proved to be so upsetting. Above all else, they made music that was able to lift me out of that certain funk, helping me remember that not all music sounds tired and boring.
Thankfully, to ease the pain, us fans have been able to hold on to Dustin Wong, who has been releasing a substantial amount of solo material ever since the breakup. While Dustin Wong’s recordings are admittedly of little comparison to the ecstatic pop psychedelia of Ponytail, anyone who ever listened to him would say he has a distinctive and aurally fascinating guitar style, and his exploration of looping techniques has proven to be more than worthy. Now being hailed as a Trilogy — starting with 2010’s Infinite Love and broadening in scope on 2012’s Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads — Dustin Wong has evolved into a compositional maestro. With his fascinating guitar textures and air of progressiveness he is perhaps most readily relatable to Robert Fripp, — or more recently Mark Mcguire — but overall, his style incorporates guitar sounds from such a wide array of genres that his work feels like a thorough exploration of the guitar as a whole.
Mediation of Ecstatic Energy starts with “The Big She”, which is an immediately noisier affair than any of his previous solo material. The song quickly branches off to include vocals, metal-esque drum pounces, and sharp, disorienting jabs that sound like they could in no way be emitted by a guitar. It’s an album that sees him exploring areas he’s never been in before, and his venture outside his comfort zone has turned out with some of his best material yet. Unlike previous releases, Dustin isn’t simply riffing solo on top of solo for the duration of a track. Instead, he cleverly introduces series of chords that change the structure of a piece as a whole. Additionally, the far out sounds he conjures through dozens of FX pedals help morph his loops into multiple dimensions despite being based off of a few simple patterns.
Most songs actually start off sounding somewhat familiar — a mixture of catchy and colorful — only to unexpectedly change direction within a few moments. Nowhere better is this exemplified as on “Japan”, which starts with an almost awkwardly high pitched picking segment before somehow maneuvering into a grand orchestral arrangement (you’ll be sure you heard horns). It’s these instances where we realize how much power Dustin Wong has as a musician and a composer. As fantastically as he plays guitar, his organizational skills are what’s really on display here.
He doesn’t care about impressing us with painstakingly accurate transitions, as tracks will often fade into the next one sporadically, and long running loops will end abruptly if another idea comes along. However, the album benefits from this slopped together presentation, as the entirety of it feels as though it was culled from but a few live sessions. Through all of the warping ideas and countless FX pedals, you’d expect his music to get lost within a disorienting haze, but despite the sprawling omnivorousness of it, Mediation Of Ecstatic Energy‘s aims never lets up.
1.) The Big She*
2.) Emerald Atmosphere
4.) Aura Peeled Off
5.) Out of the Crown Head*
6.) Liberal Christian Youth Ministry
7.) Cityscape Floated*
8.) Speeding Feathers Staring
9.) (A) Shows (B) His Analysis and (C) Looked Over*
10.) Physical Consciousness Went In
12.) Helix Sky
13.) Vision Waterfall*
14.) Tall Call Cold Sun*
Album Highlight – *