(New Album Review) Neglect- Western Romance Novels

2015 has seen Lifelike Family continuing to hold down the forefront of Portland’s overwhelmingly eclectic and passionate ambient music scene with great new releases from The OO-Ray, el owl (label owners Jay and Ryan’s ambient project), DeLyria, and now Neglect, Portland-based musician and sound artist Joseph Valentino. His absolutely jaw-dropping Western Romance Novels was devised and recorded over the span of two years, but its enveloping embrace pulls you into the echoes of what feels like a whole life-history. The limited cassette release of Western Romance Novels was handled by Lifelike’s imprint New Ruin Tapes.

As in the best work of Celer, Stars of the Lid, and William Basinski, Valentino has tapped into the incredibly evocative power of the slowly-altering ostinato theme. This is the kind of minimal emotionalism that needs only a looped melody and the space surrounding it to open the floodgates of memory. Western Romance Novels really could not be more well-named– it’s this cloudless high desert landscape of melancholic detachment and longing that just expands and expands until it’s as though it becomes life itself. Delay-stretched guitars and warm, spacious washes of synths paint an endless plain in which one cannot help but feel swallowed, though not lost. Where do epics like “Kayenta” and the phenomenal title track end and seeming interludes like “Ocotillo Wells” begin? This lonesome tumbleweed dream gives the impression of being made up of a single strand of circuiting feedback.

Because I am fairly certain that I heard some of these melodies in my dreams long before I met them here, and more importantly because I’d be a happy guy listening to them forever, this one could be my favorite ambient release of the year. To all lovers of warm drone, kosmiche, and melancholic post-rock feels, don’t let this one slip past you!

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