Via tape loops and synth motifs sent from coast to coast, LA sound artist Christopher Royal King has teamed with NYC violinist and composer Christopher Tignor toward richly timbral, emotionally gripping works of spontaneity that unfurl immense details with each replay while marrying West Coast outboard-ambient to studied East Coast modern classical. The resulting debut album, A Wave From A Shore, exhibits both artists’ sonic identities binding into a new entity distinct from either’s solitary palettes. The remote nature of this collaboration is notable: only audio downloads and periodic text messages were exchanged over the record’s 4-month development. While the record breathes with a sense of yearning easily identified with life in their respective cities, it also conveys a unique resonance between these artist’s distinct musical approaches.
A visual artist whose work includes album covers for Thrice and Deftones in addition to video bumps for Adult Swim, Christopher Royal King has been quietly and steadily releasing deeply exploratory, cassette-baked vignettes as Symbol for the last decade amid his migration from central Texas to Los Angeles. King spent his teenage years cutting his teeth on heavy metal and punk before gravitating, quickly and perhaps unexpectedly, toward experimental composers like Philip Glass and Terry Riley. This unlikely seesaw of influences led directly to King forming the post-rock pillar This Will Destroy You. Similar to his former band’s output, King’s so meanderings impart a mood of buoyancy and contemplation while hinting at darker, more shadowy hues beneath the glimmer, making his music stand apart from the glut of New Age droners and modular-synth influencers who opiate the modern music landscape for better or worse. Where the genre at large is sometimes guilty of being the spiritual equivalent of a topical balm, King’s aesthetic is more like a rigorous therapy session that is as healing as it is confronting.
Himself an expert in the interplay of levity and gravity, Christopher Tignor first crossed paths with King in the mid 2000s, lending string arrangements to This Will Destroy You releases, and sometimes touring as a live member of the group. Before, during, and since those collaborations, Tignor has mounted an impressive discography under his own name and with his groups Slow Six, and Wires Under Tension, all while completing Princeton’s PhD program for music composition, and NYU’s Masters of computer science program. He put the full power of his dual studies to use, arriving at the illusionist-like meld of sound design and physical performance that his current-day solo efforts portray. Explaining his recording and performing methods (which are one and the same) Tignor explains, “I banned backing tracks, click tracks, and even live looping - anything that would enforce a strict grid. All sounds originate from me kicking a drum, playing the violin, or various natural percussion sources. I built software that lets me do all this. This offers an unprecedented amount of control over this music’s elastic sense of time.”
King’s own music follows parallel rivulets of happenstance, with an array of analog gadgets in perpetual dialogue as he omnipotently guides and documents the chatter. Tignor’s lucid string work frames King’s impressionism, sharpening the focus while being softened by the textural overgrowth. “Atria” begins with a breathing vocal synth that forms the piece’s spinal column, while strings flesh out around it layer by layer, the discernment of each becoming less and less possible over time. “Dynasty” drifts down from the rafters on tape-recorded angel song, like a tranquil passage of some late night public access church service stumbled upon while channel-surfing during a bout of insomnia. Tignor’s strings arrive politely at the edges, slowly bleeding into the center until every corner is occupied by orchestral ecstasy. Appropriately, A Wave From A Shore’s title track puts-forward the most soaring, elegiac moment of the album. Violin trills converse with one another in mourning, patiently rolling across the aural tide for the track’s first few minutes. By its final quarter a bass line appears, adding weight to an already heavy composition while enshrouding its electronic elements in a Terrence Malick-esque mix of grandeur and tragedy. But it’s the album’s closer “Impossible Color” that seems to most accurately depict the Disassembler creative dynamic, and hint at what the partnership might become. The track plays like a mini-album unto itself, exploring several moods, paces, and timbres throughout its nearly nine minute runtime. King’s humanized synthesis again gives a springboard to complexifying instrumentation from Tignor, but this time the violin commences in a brushing, urgent fashion, and King’s backdrop disappears soon after. Fluttering harmonies multiply, falling in and out of cohesion as polyrhythms take shape. After an extended passage, the tone shifts from jubilant, and almost regal, to fascinated, bewildered, and awe-struck. King’s flourishes return as a persistently chiming electric gamelan that locks to Tignor’s violin to forge a triumphant final moment for the duo’s flagship album.
King and Tignor respectively embody abstraction and definition, intuition and lucidity, working in complete symbiosis to mutually enliven one another as artists. On A Wave From A Shore, they do their part to rescue ambient music from being vapid anaesthesia, offering instead a profound, often ravaging emotional experience for listeners who wish to be moved and not just lulled. Where the events of the past few years have understandably increased the demand for escapist art and entertainment, Disassembler proposes what might be a healthier alternative, inviting listeners to face emotions head on, and thereby rediscover the inherent richness of being alive.