Amp, “Entangled Time”

Five tracks, 44 minutes; that’s enough time to get truly entangled. Especially at the hands of Amp, the long-running experimental (read: entrancing, gorgeous) project of Richard Walker (aka Richard Amp). It’s currently, and for a while now, a duo, with vocalist Karine Charff.

Amp exists at “the space where noise and melody meet” (their own description). No record sounds exactly alike; some float along while others get closer to ‘songs’. But they feel similar; each are capable of surprise and a state of wonderment. This new one is no exception.

Since the early ’90s Amp has amassed a universe of beautiful recordings. Entangled Time, their first full-length in about eight years, fits right in with them. It’s a ‘bliss out’ — like the name of the Darla Records’ series they contributed to back in 1997 (vol. 4, Perception, a forever classic in my book and one of my all-time favorite works of music for napping to).

“Drifting”, the first track on Entangled Time is called, as it should be. It ends like we’re being carried away by an ocean. The 8-minute “Will-Oh Dreams” is absolutely gorgeous, peaceful and still. It’s here also in an “extended mix” that doubles the time and carries us away with a feeling of gentle transcendence. Drifting, indeed.

Dolphin Midwives, “Liminal Garden”

“Dolphin-assisted births are a thing”, proclaimed the headline of a 2013 Time article about dolphins serving as midwives for human births. But let’s forget about that for a second; focus on Dolphin Midwives, the musical project of Portland harpist Sage Fisher.

Harpist, you say? Yes, and singer too, but while listening I mostly forget about what instruments were used to make the music, and instead get lost in the transformative, fanciful, otherworldly music. Voices are instruments are manipulated and layered, getting us to focus on the whole more than each part.

Classify this as ambient or New Age, but this is not background music. It’s more riveting, attention-grabbing than that, connecting sound to nature’s mysteries, to the most fantastic imaginary world you can imagine.

I said mostly forget because there are songs throughout where we’re accurately aware that someone is playing a harp. The playing is gorgeous, nimble, and in contrast with but complementary towards the more abstract, meandering soundscapes of tracks like the opener “Grass Grow”.

Nature imagery is abundant, in the track titles and in our minds. Liminal Garden is a great title for this type of strange beauty, suggesting new, phantasmagorical vegetative or animal life.