The Nurture Channel
New York duo Growing creates music that embraces the environment
Date: Dec 01, 2004 – 03:43 PM
By Peter Relic
Cleveland Free Times
WISEACRE POETASTER Kenneth Koch once observed that birds don’t sing, they communicate, and that human beings are the only creatures that sing. What Koch suggests is that animals who are often attributed the power of song Äî birds and whales, for example Äî are making such sounds for an expressly utilitarian purpose, while human singing Äî like all art Äî is an indulgent, species-specific endeavor based upon nature’s example. This peculiar relationship is expanded upon in one of the year’s most rewarding albums: Growing’s The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light .
Growing is Joe DeNardo and Kevin Doria, two gentlemen in their mid-20s who met at college in Olympia, Washington. Their instrumental debut, The Sky’s Run Into the Sea , appeared in 2003, and its massive, guitar-centric sounds turned on legions of fringe music fans, from the doom metal set to the well-groomed frequenters of the sculpture garden at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (where Growing played this summer). Without drums or traditionally recognizable melodies, their music nonetheless projects a palpable pulse and a sense of harmony. And as a friend recently pointed out, when you bang your head to music this slow, you’re basically bowing.
ÄúThe nature thing comes up a lot,Äù says Kevin Doria, answering the line in the group’s live-in bunker in Brooklyn, New York. ÄúI was working at a restaurant, and on my break I’d go out back where I’d hear the hum of the freeway, and the refrigerator vent vibrating, and I liked that enough to where I compositionally copied that, not replicating those sounds but replacing them with sounds on my guitar. That’s a big part of our concept.Äù
Of course, concepts mean nothing without execution. Growing’s got the goods. The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light contains four long pieces, including the impeccably titled laser-guided ÄúOnementÄù and the exponentially expansive ÄúAnaheim II,Äù whose heavy drone evokes the inside an MRI cone during a brain scan.
ÄúA drone is one of those sounds that can communicate a lot of subtlety,Äù Joe DeNardo says. ÄúPare everything down to one note and there’s a lot of harmonic ephemera, and the longer you sustain the sound the more time the listener has to concentrate and pick up on the sound. Many traditional musics have a drone element. It’s always felt really nice and easy and pleasant even to play.Äù
The album’s moving fugue is ÄúEpochal Reminiscence.Äù In 18 minutes it moves from the static to the ecstatic as a sonic undertow closes around the listener.
ÄúThat’s something we originally recorded for a home show,Äù DeNardo says. ÄúA home show is where we design each room in the house to have a different sound environment, and people come over; they’re invited to partake and stay overnight.Äù
Sounds a bit like what happens at Lakewood’s fabled Recycled Rainbow.
ÄúYeah, anyone can do it in their house,Äù DeNardo continues. ÄúIt’s a really pleasant way to hang out with friends. That piece was my bedroom’s soundscape, playing on a prerecorded tape, and then there were a couple guitars and amps set up, and people were allowed to pick them up and play along. All the effects were in a box that they couldn’t reach; they just had access to a guitar and a volume pedal.Äù
The pedal thing is crucial since, while it sometimes sounds like Growing are using synthesizers, they only play guitars. ÄúThe Big Muff distortion pedal is a favorite, specifically the green ’90s-era model,Äù DeNardo says. ÄúAnd I have a Superfuzz. When I first met Joe Preston [of grunge legends the Melvins] I learned how to combine multiple distortion pedals to get specific sounds. That’s kind of a trade secret, though.Äù
Further intriguing disclosures are available online at http://www.dustedmag.com, where Growing reveal a list of stuff that’s turned them on lately, including Village Music of Bulgaria’s album A Harvest, A Shepherd, A Bride , the large-scale horizon-obsessed paintings of mid-century New York painter Barnett Newman and the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s romantic horror film Nosferatu by pastoral German psychonauts Popol Vuh.
So, how much time do these deep dudes give the human race before extinction?
ÄúA couple thousand years,Äù DeNardo says, Äúif we can deal with energy in an efficient way. Hopefully our brains will evolve, like a new species will come out of us. It’s awfully sad to think of the damage we’ve done in the past hundred years. But the best thing about the Earth is that it’ll just keep on truckin’.Äù
Doria takes the long view: ÄúA couple hundred million years, and even then there’s going to be rogue factions hiding underground who will mutate. But if a giant asteroid hits the earth, I hope it falls on my head and obliterates me right away, instead of having to think of how a giant asteroid hit the earth 15 minutes ago and a wave of energy churning towards me is going to wipe me out.Äù
Until then, Growing has its name to live up to. ÄúWe chose it because it seemed all-encompassing,Äù DeNardo says. ÄúA lot of people didn’t like it at first because they thought it was a reference to marijuana or boners. Not so. It does seem to describe the process of living and dying without being heavy and ominous. Which is nice.Äù¬