A special Buchla synth album, made by the company's official technician.
Smith's work is compact and economical, a contrast to the protracted compositions that define the remaining core of Important Records' contemporary synth roster, including Eleh, Caterina Barbieri, Alessandro Cortini and Jessica Ekomane. Drones and arhythmic swells comprise the basis of most of the six pieces on Shasta Cults, but rather than letting them marinate he focuses on dynamic layering and timbral juxtapositions. Shasta Cults originated from Smith's desire to demonstrate the range and abilities of the various Buchla models he was repairing and restoring, and this approach seems directly derived from those roots. Within each track, he's able to cover a surprising amount of ground. If you didn't know the music was created all on one machine, you'd be forgiven for assuming these tracks were realized using a much more diverse arsenal.
The album begins peacefully, and with restraint. "Prologue" hovers with a sense of placid melancholy, bass tones cycling in and out of the mix. Its clean tones sound glass-like, smooth and nearly transparent as they fade in and out of the audible field. Other moments have more bite. "DA3" features coarse waves of sound that resemble aural quicksand, gulping the listener up in successive, oozing surges. This buzzing intensity is overlaid with dramatic, organ-like stabs that appear triumphant in the face of the pulsing chaos below. On the drone track "Incline," Terry Riley-esque tones swirl back and forth over an increasingly resonant bass hum. The closer, "Chinook," with its apprehensive melodic fragments that open up into a yawning, fuzzed-out climax, leaves the album feeling unresolved in a way that feels entirely purposeful.
Gear worship for its own sake can be tiring, but the music on Shasta Cults is too expressive to be pigeonholed simply as exercises in technological know-how. The recent Buchla boom has led to many different approaches over the past few years, but Smith's Shasta Cults project stands apart not just because he has access to the rarest models or has such an intimate knowledge of their notoriously unpredictable, generative circuitry. He uses this knowledge to create music that is richly textured without becoming dense, and like all masters of their instrument he knows how to dance elegantly between complexity and simplicity. It is that dance that makes Shasta Cults feel special.