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Expo '70 - Animism

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Artist: Expo '70

Album: Animism

Label: Kill Shaman

Review date: Jul. 17, 2007

After five well-received, though decidedly underground, CD-R releases, Kansas City-based Justin Wright - aka Expo '70 - comes aboveground with his first official CD release. Animism follows solidly in the footsteps of its predecessors, offering over an hour of trippy instrumentals that flow from ethereal float and cosmic drone to quietly psychedelic space-strumming.

Animism as a title carries with it some assumptions. Paraphrasing, the concept of animism says that something akin to a soul, or an innate life-force, imbues everything, not just so-called "living" things. This raises the question, then, whether these seven songs are intended to give voice to these souls, whether this is a soundtrack to a specific set of things, or perhaps it's simply a philosophy that Wright felt had some bearing on the music. Ultimately, there's no telling; no clues are given, so it's up to the listener. Which is perhaps how it should be.

The album opens with its shortest piece, "Outside In," a simple droning intro that leads into "Mahogany Lake," a long dose of Tangerine Dream that drifts on gentle drones and placidly echoing guitar notes. It's the perfect soundtrack to your next isolation tank experience. With "Eagle Talons," we're given a dose of heavy, glacial sound masses that delve into more threatening territory, but "Universal Horizon" provides a respite of slowly-struck gongs reverberating, a meditational moment.

The last two-thirds of the album primarily consists of the two longest pieces, broken up by the brief, acoustic "Missing Sun." The 20-minute and heavily-titled "Entering the Night on a Highway of Astral Projection" flows on glowering waves of thick drone, an oceanic rhythm augmented after the first third with sharp guitar lines and cloudlike synths. Midway through it ominously grows very quiet indeed, then expands again into a rumbling desert of low-end hum. "Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover" closes the album with 15 minutes of slow Floydian bass chug amidst slowly-blowing waves of sound that give way to ambient tone float and gentle guitar notes as an on/off buzz sees us out the other side.

Animism is crafted on frameworks built long ago by the likes of Brian Eno, Cluster, and Klaus Schulz, and Wright clearly understands the brain-melting appeal of their cosmic tones. While "Eagle Talons" bears similarities to contemporaries such as Growing and Om, it lacks the dynamism of pieces like "Entering the Night" and leaves less of an impression. "Missing Sun" is the other odd man out on the album, but is similarly multidimensional and trance-inducing. Overall, with Animism Wright has recorded a coming-out album that should see many more people talking about Expo '70 in the months to come.

By Mason Jones

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