The first time I heard of Ross Gentry I was in his currenthometown of Asheville, North Carolina, buying music at local institutionHarvest Records. It was there I came upon a copy of The Last Whole Earth, his first record under the Villages moniker. Youmay have your preconceptions about what ambient or drone music is, and I cansay with certainty that Ross Gentry’s work is something altogether unique. Hisnewest record Procession Acts, on theBathetic imprint, is another satisfying example of that uniqueness.
Gentry’s approach to ambient music seems in part borne ofhis own upbringing in Kentucky’s coal country and his close association withthe music of the region, but transmuted into a completely new context. There’ssomething earthy and elemental about his work, full of acoustic instrumentation– piano, cello, guitar, you name it - and granular percussion, all wrapped around a dramatic core that burns hot at the center of his music and distinguishes itfrom so many other records in the genre.
Procession Actsadheres precisely this formula, takes it even a little further, and it worksperfectly.
Album opener “Beginnings In Dust" is a perfect demonstrationof why Gentry is so damn effective. The tune opens with a series of moodyminor-key piano chords, mired in a fog of pitch-shifting bowed guitars and whatsounds like motes of windblown dirt scraping across worn wooden floorboards.It’s a West Virginia mining town on a grey winter day in the 1960s. It’sDickens’ London. It’s a foggy San Francisco afternoon in the Outer Sunset. It’sone part beauty and one part despair, ebbing and flowing through each track inrelentless fashion. There’s a deceptive simplicity to it all; a tune like “OpenIn Reverse” seems to be one sustained chord, but listen closely and hear itshift and intensify beneath your feet, culminating in ghostly radio voicesburied deep within. Find yourselfnodding to the hypnotic tambourine and guitar motifs in “Out Of The Mines,”only to be lulled into the stark beauty of “Endings in Rust,” the aptly-titledcloser with its quietly insistent piano and guitar atmospherics.
Procession Acts isa finely woven and captivating narrative that feels surprisingly universal andopen to interpretation. You have the soundtrack, and the movie in your headwill be your own unique invention. Probably you’ll want to clap when the creditsroll.