Dedekind Cut, one of the most exciting experimental composers working today, has released his most accomplished set yet, an industrial ambient juggernaut that folds all his prior rough edges into an interstellar discovery vehicle. Tahoe is music for travelling beyond, informed by a deeply honest sense of what it’s like to be alive right now in this weird world.
Dedekind Cut, aka Fred Welton Warmsley III (and formerly Lee Bannon), quickly became a favorite in 2016 thanks to his uniquely violent take on the frontier of space that musicians like Oneohtrix Point Never and Tim Hecker and Steve Hauschildt have explored over the last decade-plus. The music on his prior full length release, $uccessor, evoked the ghosts of cosmic artists who came before him, rendering this inspiration in a splintered, rough-edged sculpture, as radiant and at-turns soothing as it was noisy and abrasive. He wasn’t merely following in the footsteps of some of my favorite artists, which would have been enjoyable enough; he was poking at all the fragile corners of this sound, finding cracks to rip open and see through, reaching out and feeling around for something truly new.
With Tahoe, named after the famed lake town he now calls home, it’s clear that Warmsley is now journeying beyond, mapping out his own territory at the fringe of the synth-streaked galaxy.
The elemental building blocks have ballooned, expanding to fill this new space. The more corrosive ingredients have diffused, spreading into the fabric of a newly-oceanic scale of sound. What once was disruptive has become meditative, subsuming the listener in a cocoon of warmth inside an infinite abyss. Tahoe feels like a single grand cosmic arc, each track guiding us along an adventure from the unknown to a new idea of home. It appears utterly alien, yet rings with an undeniable truth – the kind you know in your gut without a moment’s thought, intrinsic and obvious in retrospect.
This feeling of instinctive dream logic informs the entire album, permeating its billowing ambient float, its blurred synth washes, its panoramic expanse, and its sumptuous level of micro-detail upon close examination. The deeper I peer into this siren abyss, the more I find: an infinite zoom into galaxies, solar systems, planets, cities, homes, people, organs, cells, molecules, atoms, and the perceptual space between them. Individual songs unfold along their own hazily recognizable arcs, more poetic drift than traditionally powered song structure.
I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s appraisal of Werner Herzog’s hypnotic masterpiece Aguirre The Wrath of God: “He does not want to tell a plotted story or record amusing dialog; he wants to lift us up into realms of wonder.” Similarly, Dedekind Cut has crafted an ambient experience designed not to sooth and comfort, but to enlighten and elevate. He brings us through uncomfortably dark realms – spaces only waiting to be lit by the presence of a new explorer, a new observer – in the warmest vessel possible. At times, Tahoe feels like a mourning for a lost sense of the shared world. At times, it feels like an attempt to move on, swelling with romantic yearning for wordless wonder.
With barely a trace of vocals, this album says almost as much about American life in 2018 as Kendrick Lamar did with DAMN in 2017. At least, from where I’m standing, that’s how it feels. Tahoe is a industrial synth tsunami, devouring and incorporating everything along its path. In tender, quiet moments, tactile Earthly elements surface: rain splashing into a pond, an echoed dog bark, the hum of electric lines, bird calls, chimes, distant wordless chanting. These textural bursts pull us closer to the gravitational rush of sound, leaning in to hear the details, following them back into the miasma from which they arose. It’s bigger and deeper and more spacious than anything Dedekind Cut has released before, and it’s already one of the best albums of the year.
According to his new label Kranky Records, Warmsley regards his new album as a “time peace,” sifting through “the past, the present, future, and fantasy.” He completed production after recording the album across the globe, in New York, Berlin, Cambridge, and Placer County, California, neatly reflecting the searching nature of the music itself.
Tahoe can be previewed via the widget above, and the full set will be released February 22, 2018, on vinyl, CD, and digital from Kranky via Bandcamp.