Switched On – Blank Gloss: Cornered (Kompakt)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the third album from Sacramento duo Blank Gloss, following up their Melt debut from February 2021 – which made a strong impression on Arcana around its release.

For this record, Morgan Fox (piano and synthesizers) and Patrick Hills (guitar) united for just two days at the studio in Sacramento in December 2020. During the sessions the music came together quickly, Hills benefiting from the use of a MIDI pick-up on his guitar that gave it a darker sound.

What’s the music like?

There is a sparseness to the music of Blank Gloss this time, stripping their music back to the bare elements while looking to still paint pictures of the great outdoors. In many respects the cover encapsulates this approach, replacing the dusky orange cloud of Melt with a black and white image, a single tree in a field. The tree represents some of the inner detail Fox and Hills bring to their music, while the listener can almost feel the wind in the long grass around.

To start with, the duo take their listeners and place them once again in a huge space under a starry sky, the reverberant guitar track of Sender replicating the ‘ambient Americana’ of the previous album. Yet this time there is a sense of unease, perhaps reflecting the lockdown conditions under which the recording may well have taken place. The piano for Dusted has a distracted thought pattern, reflecting nagging pulses and signals from outer sources.

By contrast the extended No Appetite, though reserved in mood, has a soothing and sustained set of chords in which the listener can float, and Salt is similarly static. On The Ground pans right out to take in solemn piano threads and ambient outdoor noises, while Soda Lake bubbles under the surface, its positive energy just held in check.

Dressed Alike finishes the album with a warm glow.

Does it all work?

Yes. The less is more approach works really well, giving opportunity for the listener to place their thoughts. The colours given to the piano and guitar are carefully managed and beautifully achieved, with a damper often applied to the keyboard to soften the attack.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a strong complement to Melt, but a sign that Blank Gloss are moving on in their thought patterns and musical phrasing. Cornered feels like a wholly appropriate response to the troubles of the world, and while sombre in mood it offers ample consolation for darker times.



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