Written by: Dave Cantrell
As the long-abandoned remnants of the teenaged hippie buried deep inside me is wont to say, ‘Time’s a trip, man.’ While stoner vague enough to be immutably true it seems to this writer, from his now somewhat elder perch, that Time, for all that’s attributed to it from poets, philosophers, and accountants, is an overrated obsession.
I mean, really, I don’t give a shit if it curves or is having a boisterous romp with Space at the Hotel Continuum or is living off its borrowed self in its mom’s basement. I don’t even care if its apparent linearity is a sick practical joke. Upon semi-deep reflection I’ve come to realize that, aside from the inevitably emotional weight that the passage of time ties to our memories, giving our personal nostalgia those amber or not-so-amber shades depending on our natal luck, time is, in actual fact, kind of a selfish prick. It doesn’t give of itself freely whatsoever and what it does give it tends to take back at twice the price. Time, in short, is all about itself, and would seem to (not so) secretly relish watching everything under its watch wither into nothing at its own given speed.
Kramer, no one’s fool, knows all this. Like any of us, he has proceeded through this life with time hanging over him like a vaguely persistent – and, to be honest, slightly drooping – question mark. And, like any – or anyway most – of us, he’s not immune to the pressures that seep into our worry- and pride-prone consciousness as that motherfcker time, together with its heartless pal gravity, asserts itself in our misnomered ‘golden’ years. Unlike most of us, however, the guy, by all appearances, seems to have used his thus-far allotted hours on this sweet cracked planet to not only solid effect but a widely varied, experimental one at that. If in fact we’re all more or less playing out a string here, Kramer has left very few of the knots that have interested him untangled. To take it further, if the goal is to occupy time more than it occupies us, well, not many have better accomplished that either. From the groundbreaking Bongwater with its fractured imperturbable pop aesthetic all the way through to last year’s “full-throated hush” (as some hack described it) of last year’s singer-songwriter paean to love and doubt And the Wind Blew it All Away – and the countless detours into this and that intensity scattered prolifically between – this man Kramer has been nothing if not relentlessly curious. About the form, his ‘muse’, about the many possibilities when you’ve cut your young, post-Beatles teeth on the likes of Arvo Part, Harry Partch, Eno and Terry Riley et al while still relishing the almost innocent beauty of the pop song as well as, if not more than, the uncanny epiphanies and immortal asides of Leonard Cohen and everyone else toiling in the shadows of that particular tower of song. It is a long and dedicated and, to some extent, exhausting path he’s been on for some forty or so years that could well deplete a lesser spirit’s energy and drive. Not so if you’re Mr. Kramer. Instead, you take all those above-mentioned referents and throw them at the question ‘What’s next?’ and see where that takes you, as you’ve done in one form or another the entire time. In this instance it’s led to something of an epiphany in the form of an ambient meditation called, in true Kramer fashion, Music for Films Edited By Moths.
A surprise to some, perhaps, but to us it makes an almost divine sense. Once words and the sentiments they might muster when strung together leaves one wanting in some undefinable way, ditto the standard menu of genre and style you’ve been selecting from for pretty much ever, the lure of the wordless, with its near infinite potential to express nearly everything ever left unsaid in one’s heart out loud, must be terribly strong. In these pieces moods roil at will, as illustrated by “Burial at Sea” where figures of treated (and softer, untreated) piano rustle against each other in the rushes, the suggestion of peace gently hounded at every turn by the lull of the unsettled. When, eventually, the composition takes on more complexity and we feel ourselves ever more deeply adrift, a brief succession of lowing bass notes brings something resembling resolution, as if we could sleep down here now, accepting our fate with something resembling tranquility. It’s a beautiful, fully lived-in piece that’s almost too easy to fall in love with and at the very least ranks with anything Kramer has produced. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to be in thrall to reductionism, you have your answer. The main takeaway here (and no little irony to boot) isn’t so much how great, how engaging the record is – this is Kramer, after all – but rather, given the genre, how plain exciting it is, how evocative it is, how resilient.[for the sake of a perhaps more invested perspective, we give the composer last word]:
“…if you asked me what it is exactly that i am trying to do now, with Music, be it through song, or through ambience, i would confess that what i’m doing couldn’t be more simple; i am just trying to explain myself. I’m trying to show you who i am”[Music For Films Edited by Moths releases today, August 26, 2022 on Shimmy-Disc; get it here]