|2||Down & Distance|
It’s not easy to summarize any band whose career has stretched over two decades. In the case of GROWING, though, it’s all in the name: since 2001, the core duo of Kevin Doria and Joe DeNardo have been making vibrating, explorative experimental music that is in a forever state of evolution. In that time, GROWING have amassed a hard-to-define and influential body of work, and “Diptych” sees the band operating at the height of their “big amp ambient” powers.
“Diptych” is a masterclass in slowly undulating ambient drift, and quite possibly the definitive headphone album of the year. Guitars that sound like organs pointed at the heavens are cut with subtly damaged electronic moves, the end result being a record that is at once ecstatic, transportive and gritty.
Ambient and new age music have become part of the larger indie vocabulary. Things were different over 20 years ago in the Olympia, Washington punk community where Doria and DeNardo got their start. Both veterans of aggressive music by the time the band began, GROWING emerged like a rainbow at the other end of the heavy music tunnel: loud as ever, but with a sonic and aesthetic position that ran counter to punk rock norms.
Though their amp stacks signified sludge, what actually came out of GROWING’s speakers was more blissed out – something akin to a hesher using their denim jacket as a meditation mat at La Monte Young’s Dream House. From their start, GROWING blazed a path through the underground, leaving a trail of blown minds and ruptured eardrums in every basement they hit, and likely inspiring more than a few kids to break up their hardcore band and start experimenting with psychedelics.
In the subsequent decade, the band moved to Brooklyn, toured the world, landed on magazine covers and made records for everyone from experimental powerhouse Kranky to Vice. Their sound continued to shift — the band very gradually started to incorporate more electronic-driven, rhythmic elements — and at one point the artist and musician Sadie Laska joined as a member. Through it all, their focus on experimentation never waned.
Back to the present tense. Created over the past year and a half, “Diptych” comes on the heels of both a series of internet-only co-releases with Silver Current and a reissue of the band’s seminal 2004 album “The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light” on Laffs & Danger. It extrapolates on GROWING’s formative drone-based work, showing a unit in full control of a language that they have built and reconfigured over time. The music here continues to be an intuitive outgrowth of a friendship that started in late-90s Olympia and still bears fruit today — even as each member lives in a different city.
As ambient music continues to take up an increasing amount of contemporary musical real estate, “Diptych” is a reminder of GROWING’s influence and sustained vitality within the form. GROWING have once again interjected depth and focus into a field they helped pioneer in the 21st century – to put it simply, this is a singular band hitting a new high water mark in a time when transcendence is cherished.