Record Highlight — John Davis


Hailing from Northern California, John Davis is a sound artist, composer and filmmaker who has released music on labels such as Root Strata and Digitalis. With Ask the Dust, he offers up a moving suite of compositions made using a plethora of instrumentation including guitar, piano, tape loops, Max/MSP, field recordings and the newest addition to his arsenal, a complex assortment of Blacet synthesizer modules. Davis uses the synth not as the crux of his recordings but as a tool among many in his kit, weaving oscillations and mangled or rhythmic tones through pastoral webs of processed guitar and field recordings. To this end, the richness of his palette cannot be denied, nor can his prowess as a masterful arranger of abstract sound. “Superpartner” opens the record, a jittery array of pure sound that refuses to sit still, developing slowly and accruing detail and a sparring partner in the form of delicately treated acoustic guitar. Perhaps the record’s defining movement, “Synecdoche,” begins with a contemplative, and even romantic, piano arrangement, sparse and beautiful – a moving miniature that is abruptly broken apart and replaced by a bed of layered sine waves and guitar haze which somehow matches the radiance of what preceded it. Striking in its attention to detail and compositional deftness, “Ask the Dust” is easily Davis’ most refined set of recordings to date, a deep album that rewards focused and repeated listening.