Loren Connors – Airs (Students of Decay, 2015)


16 years ago Loren Connors recorded Airs to 4-track cassette and subsequently created one his most popular and well regarded albums from across his storied and extensive discography. It seems that because of this record’s appeal it was high time for it to be rereleased in a more appropriate fashion, deserving a full vinyl remaster at the hands of the ever talented Taylor Dupree and it’s pretty hard to argue with; comprised of 17 tracks almost wholly unnamed and barely spanning 2 minutes apiece, Airs is a 35 minute excursion into minimal guitar poetry, a lush collection of almost diary-like bursts of sparse and haunting acoustic instrumentation.

That being said, its transient nature and gentility make this fragile and careful collection of sounds a difficult one to begin talking about in a meaningful and not esoteric manner. Its relative brevity and sparse, quiet, melancholic constructions make those limited 35 minutes pass by in a weakly impressionable heartbeat, and it’s only in a few slightly longer and more impassioned tracks that we truly get a strong sense of imparted emotion from this record; certainly there’s a strength in numbers and the album does seem to exude a distinct and continuing melancholia that stacks across its span but it’s rather elusive and uninspiring for the most part.

The first few minutes in the opening two pieces define a certain idiosyncratic series of gently picked guitar notes that introduce the record on a somewhat lighter note, taking care to ease us slowly into its world with straightforward and intimate presentation before slowly seguing into pieces that one could consider to be slightly more challenging and engaging. “Untitled 3” draws the darker and more morose heart of the record, the actively melancholic and most relatable aspect of the generally diffuse record in its slower, more distant and increasingly reverbed explorations, each note plucked deliberately and oozing a certain resignation. This strong sense of non-urgent and rooted sadness is allowed to breach the surface in a number of other notable tracks, being particularly obvious in number 8’s short fuse and track 11’s crushingly bleak vista permitting a few notes to circulate out of the darkness in carefully constructed packages of chords to maximise their impact.

This somewhat apparent internal struggle is perhaps best highlighted in the longer tracks on the album; shared equally between tracks 6 and 12 in two excursions of exactly three minutes and twenty-three seconds each, these lucky pieces are afforded a few extra precious seconds to have their story told and the difference a minute or so makes is quite remarkable. No longer constrained by the limitations of their fellows, they are afforded a certain scope, although it’s approached differently in each; 6 uses it as a moment of careful reflection and eaks out slower and fuller movements of tired, nostalgic guitars, whereas 12 falls later in the album and so makes use of the momentum built behind it to create almost certainly the most passionate, dense and generally engaging piece of the album, prodding a small hole in the preceding fugue that allows track’s like 17 near the end to be a bit more sparkly and shimmery in their processing, introducing a little light and optimism before it’s too late.

I’ve enjoyed the quiet listening experience this album has to offer over the holiday period, putting it on in the late evening in place of an otherwise mostly silent house, but I can’t help feel like that’s the only purpose it seems to serve, that it doesn’t think very much of itself and subsequently crafts these rather unmemorable little fragments as a result. “In one ear and out the other” was an expression I read in a somewhat older review of this record and I can’t help but feel that way for at least half of this album’s span; each track is almost indiscernible from the next and while the whole thing flows very neatly and politely, I come away without a real sense of feeling, well, anything particularly memorable at all really.