Asteraceae is the first album from Pisaura, a new collaboration between composer Michael Pisaro-Liu and the duo of Amber Wolfe Rounds and Jarrod Fowler who work under the moniker Zizia. Extensive notes regarding the make-up of this album are kept at the duo's website (https://zizia.xyz/aster.html) but aren't necessarily required to enjoy the album, though the thought put into the composition is quite remarkable. Wolfe Rounds is an astrologer and Fowler a horticulturist, so it makes sense that their work as Zizia makes use of celestial maps and terrestrial sounds. Pisaro-Liu is a celebrated member of the Wandelweiser Collective and one of the most intriguing artists working in experimental music today. At an extremely high level, the composition of Asteraceae was guided by superimposing a celestial map with one of the greater Los Angeles area and lining up Saturn with the Mount Wilson Observatory and Chiron with the California Institute of Arts. With this as a datum, Pisaura created a series of complex rules for their site-specific recordings and performances which are better detailed on their website for those interested in the process and tools used on this album. I personally found the notes enriching to the overall experience, but again, the recording is terrific on the merit of the sounds alone.
The album is meant to be played on shuffle, and it is indeed a different experience each time when listened to it in this way. The list of instrumentation used in the recording is long and so I haven't tried to discern the sources of the sounds. The domain conjured feels familiar but never quite develops the way you expect it to (the effect is amplified when played on shuffle). It's like a maze that shifts subtly as it's traversed giving rise to a surreal combination of tension and uncertainty in the listener. All of the corners have been rounded and all signposts removed. The sounds themselves vary quite a bit but nothing feels out of place, quite to the contrary really, everything seems very well balanced and thought-out (if you hadn't already gotten the impression from the album notes). Dense shimmering drones, small percolating noises, the hiss of field recordings, all swell into brief clusters of tangled sound. The sonic footprint leans slightly more towards Zizia's esthetic, but Pisaro-Liu's touch is evident and the two parties obviously share timbral, temporal, and spatial inclinations as well. A truly unique pairing of artists that yields delightfully weird alien fruit.
Most of the information I've referenced is from the website noted earlier in this piece, which is substantial, and so might explain why the packaging is so minimalist. No elaborate texts, just images of the superimposed celestial/terrestrial maps used in the composition. Sedimental Records releases are becoming more and more rare as the years move along, but they've become synonymous with greatness in my book. If it's out on Sedimental it's worth a listen, and this record has done nothing to change that instinct. Asteraceae is as conceptually rigorous an album as you're likely to find, and it's a sign of success that for all the upfront work the music does just fine on its own.
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