Sonic Reducer: Halocline

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AJ Woods wrote to tell me that he had released a new album and that he was leaving Burque to seek his fortune in Pennsylvania. He wrote me from a Travelodge in western Nebraska to tell our readers that he already missed New Mexico, saying, “We are truly so blessed in NM; the people, the food and the land. Artistically, ABQ has been nothing but wonderful and supportive to me. It was only the logistics that seemingly weren’t adding up anymore.”

So it goes as another very talented musician journeys onward, past the guardian mountains, past the sustaining river. Although the logistics didn’t work out, Woods’ new work
Halocline demonstrates the powerful pull of this place.

Between the looming background of urban noise, there is a firm yet delicate musicality here. It does not careen and swoop so much as it flows and emerges like a flower. Woods here becomes a symbol of how humans interact with this desert world, often barren but still full of secret beauty and unexpected epiphanies.

The first track, the title track, seems to emerge from the Earth whole, yet disturbed by the very rhythm of being. When the artist croons quietly about the light and dark, a violin follows along, rendering shadows and late night as guideposts, formative and grateful but somehow still discomfiting and tenuous as time marches onward.

“Sandhill Crane Song” begins by informing listeners that “these perceptions you see are all your own” before ascending with minor key embellishments—no easy compositional path, I assure you—toward the realization that change is the only constant in a universe where harmony comes only after dissonance.

As the recording proceeds, it’s clear that here is the beginning of a masterwork that will stretch itself out over many years, many recordings and infinite gigs. Woods’ temporality is reminiscent of a youngish Neil Young, still struggling with the terrible wonder of life on Earth and working diligently, harmonically and melodiously toward reconciling that complex and beauteous terror with the facts of a life lived simply and gloriously present.

My favorite track on this recording is a tune called “Ayudame!”, a track that describes an encounter with the Rio Grande in terms that seem fragile and filled with an inner strength that radiates out of the muddy water, glistening and pulled toward the center by gravity and experience.

Near the end of
Halocline, Woods admits that there are “Many Rivers to Cross,” while the confidence of his playing intimates that those crossings will go well. He may be far from here now, under the influence of greater waters, but we will surely hear this voice again as it rises watery and dreamlike from the other end of this sphere we share.

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