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Review: Sedcairn Archives, 'Mammoth Cave'


David "Moose" Adamson performing as DMA - TED SOMERVILLE
  • Ted Somerville
  • David "Moose" Adamson performing as DMA

Sedcairn Archives
Mammoth Cave
Warm Ratio

The imagination of David "Moose" Adamson grew into a singular musical universe over the last decade. Let's trace that quickly. After roles in some of the more focused projects from Indiana's fertile independent music community in the early 2000s, Moose emerged as the leader of Jookabox in the form of a soul-aspiring master-of-ceremonies. After concluding that project’s increasingly refined catalog with its most realized statement, Eyes of the Fly, Moose embarked on a new reductionist trip under the solo moniker DMA, focusing on minimal electronics. Several recent collaborations and side projects make it clear that Adamson's inspiration is too diverse to be restricted by a single name. With Sedcairn Archives' Mammoth Cave, he's delivered a challenging and exciting incarnation.

Mammoth Cave unfolds as the soundtrack to an archeological action flick, but besides the narrative sketched out by the song titles, the plot details are up to the listener’s imagination. At first, second and third listen, it’s not clear if any actual humans were used to create the material here, but there is an undeniably organic performance aspect to the music. Many pieces are centered around brutally sparse percussion treated with effects. Reverb and echo are manipulated to create non-metric repetitions that vacillate between dub mutations and industrial clamor.

As the title indicates, these are mostly subterranean excursions. Claustrophobia percolates like Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” in double time in the opener “Scout the Location.” “Run” scores a chase sequence with a nervous pulse and some mysterious roars. There’s some breathing room in the groovy workout “Eastern Most Chamber,” where another warped drum machine is processed through modulating echoes, building in a series of nearly danceable polyrhythms before dissolving.

Moose makes a cohesive whole out of a wide range of sonic references. Vintage rhythm boxes and soft organ tones mesh with modern samples that would find sympathetic ears with fans of the Mute or HyperDub labels. The loop in “Rail Cart to Rendevouz” recalls Prefuse 73’s innovative approach to sampling at the dawn of the digital editing era. The spacious “Elevator Down” brings modern UK innovators Burial to mind in the way it outlines reggae syncopations by carving divisions into sub bass regions and the upper ethers of long reverbs, leaving the space between practically bare.

Moose is digging deeply into dub philosophy here, and he connects with a perspective of the art that includes interpretations of post-punk and industrial music. Elements of Mammoth Cave could fit on Throbbing Gristle’s “20 Jazz Funk Greats” or an early Cabaret Voltaire record. Correlating the modern dub lineage in Europe with its American relatives in rap puts him in a unique place to explore new fusions. The appropriately titled “Keep Drilling” is the closest flirtation with these influences, finding some common ground with his other newish side gig, Tuffblades. Mammoth Cave makes an even more radical reach when it tries to draw textures associated with kosmiche and soundtrack music into its context like in the album closer “Cave In”, which grafts a Popul Vuh-worthy organ improvisation onto a mechanical bass loop.

It's likely that Adamson's shift to electro-wizard has been confusing for casual fans, and the finality of that change is reinforced with Sedcairn Archives. There is no charismatic voice to guide, so listeners are forced to find their own way through obscured beats that constantly disintegrate. Mammoth Cave is unapologetically experimental and individualistic. It doesn’t do many of the things people expect music to do, but it consistently rewards the active listener, which is often times a lot more important.


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