Piper Street Sound has created the third album in his Piedmont series, this one is called The Fall Line. This is episode three of what happens after a near death experience from a Chalupa poisoning (eaten hastily before a show with live electronic trio Flight Risk) which induces hospitalization, morphine drips and some sort of shamanic vision quest led by a specter of Argentine producer Chancha Via Circuito while riding a bear that was transmuted bluesman and wordsmith extraordinaire, Russ Bledsoe from Dialect Trio. In this vision our wide-eyed hero Matt Mansfield fearfully looked down upon a low and foggy place from a tall and exposed peak like the spine of the world and across this misty wilderness lay a glowing and massive city.
This music reflects an imaginary journey across Georgia’s Piedmont region, the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, where producer Matt Mansfield lives. The trilogy is overlain with faint local music influences, electronic cumbia, vague echoes of chicha, dub reggae, and a mixture of tropical bass styles. It is like a digitally glitched map of the world with its plethora of diverse music was drawn on a transparent film and placed atop Piper Street’s personal mythological map of Georgia. Dubbed out electronic cumbia, created with both live musicians in his studio and electronic production, is the basis for much of Mansfield’s work here. This is just the kind of album you’d expect from a multi-instrumentalist and longtime dub engineer and reggae producer–immersed in a dialogue with folk, country, blues and soul music–who now works as digital content manager for purveyors of Digital Cumbia ZZK Records.
As you listen to the music take time to read the full album review by Russ Bledsoe below:
The man awoke on a vast plateau. It was dark and there were strange lights in the night sky as he made his way to the edge. From a great height, he saw from afar the lights of some nameless city, quavering with distance, little different than the unfamiliar stars that wheeled above him. The very distance of these lights and the sheer expanse of them suggested a sprawling metropolis. If we live in cities, then “city” was not the word for it. Beyond it lay a horizon of absolute darkness he took to be the sea. Before it lay miles of dark jungle, shrouded in mist. The calls and cries of unfamiliar fauna wafted up to him there at the spine of the world, as he peered out at a massive infrastructure of strange towers and unlikely shapes, the impression of industrial might, where millions worked and died, sang around infinite tiny cook fires, and heralded diverse and obscure gods. It bewildered him. It terrified him. But it also beckoned him, and its call was irresistible.
He had been aware of the bear, he realized, but did not know for how long. The appearance of the shaman however was unmistakable. One moment he was alone, and the next he was not. Thin and tall as a reed, strange of dress, the newcomer carried with him a zampona of fluted bird bones, a rattle, and an air of minimalistic serenity bespeaking harmony with the immutable. The shaman shook his rattle three times, trilled on his pan flute, and the bear came to them. Lowering its shaggy shoulders and allowing the man to climb atop it, it started forward as the shaman tapped a rhythm with the rattle against his thigh. Piping a tune that was ancient when the world was new, the three set out down the mountainside and into the forest toward they knew not what…
The above is a true story. Perhaps not in the objective, here and now, me and you, workaday sense of reality we share. But reality is subjective, and greater cultures than ours have long placed significance on the internal universe of dreams, visions, and hallucinations. In 2011, Matt Mansfield (the multi-instrumentalist and producer also known as Piper Street Sound), while on tour in Florida, bought a fateful chalupa from a vendor before a show. The next few days would change his life and world. He carried back with him an internal passenger that would wrack his body and nearly kill him. For days he fought with sickness, slowly becoming more and more dehydrated. Desperate, he went to the hospital, where a rare negative reaction to an anti-nausea drug sent him into a timeless limbo of hallucination. For nearly a week while his body fought for life, Mansfield’s feverish brain transported him to another dream world, where the events described above led on to a spiritual musical quest. In our world, the shaman who ushered him through that plane was Argentine genius producer Chancha Via Circuito. The bear was Atlanta-based multi-instrumentalist and writer Russ Bledsoe. The sounds of their journey became Mansfield’s Fall Line trilogy, of which this is the third and final installment.
2011’s Chicha De La Piedmont, followed by 2012’s Cumbia De La Piedmont, traced Mansfield’s imagined journey from highland plateau, down into dense forest, and led finally to The Fall Line’s massive city on the plain. In his diverse and bewildering way, the producer filtered his aural hallucinations through a multitude of influences. From Latin styles like Peruvian Chicha and its forebears in Colombian Cumbia and its African roots, to electronic EDM, to the Blues of the Southeastern U.S., Mansfield wove a meandering tapestry of sounds and cultures. Always, however, he pointed to the future, to the blending of these styles until precedence is obscured, to the translation of ancient rhythmic intuition into a new digital paradigm. Whereas the first two albums played with their source material, bending and shaping it to resemble other styles and exposing their shared skeletons, this work is a kaleidoscopic delirium. The Rider has descended onto the plain, in the shadow of the city’s walls, and Mansfield’s aural point of view is like a radio antenna, strobing across the bandwidth of the multitude of cultures within, all at once.
This dream landscape also has its own real-world referent. To paraphrase Mansfield’s own words regarding the series’ take on geography and culture:
“Starting with part one Chicha de la Piedmont then continuing to part two Cumbia de la Piedmont each album of the Piedmont Trilogy reflected the geography of the northern ⅓ of Georgia as if descending gradually in elevation towards the sea, passing through Atlanta at night, standing at the Fall Line now we look down across the coastal plains, from the vantage of the edge of the Piedmont. It is this edge, this cliff that rivers dive off of, once beautiful clear things (now muddied and worse), that drove the engines of industry to develop so fruitfully in this region, the Fall Line marks the point at which the elevated foothills of the Appalachian mountains drop suddenly and the rest of Georgia sits in a fairly flat and low way south of this east west “line”, once seafloor now pine scrub and industrial agriculture reign. The rivers flowing from their birth in the hollows of earths oldest mountains plunge and become waterfalls along the Fall Line allowing the factories and textile mills to grow in the Piedmont region and then the rapid urbanization of formerly rural backwoods people and the growth of a music industry which mashed together folkloric elements with cutting edge technology and new social realities. From this milieu would emerge Hillbilly music, Country, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Rock, Funk, all the music of Atlanta from the cabbage town renaissance to trap music and the Athens music scene too.”
From the beginning, The Fall Line foregoes the trajectories of the others in the series. Where they more or less began with natural sounding pieces, recognizable genres evolving over time into more complex and artificial syntheses, Fall Line is a scramble from the start. The opening track “Oppidan” starts with natural percussion and guitar, decidedly Chicha-esque, but soon evolves into fluttery Drum and Bass, swirling reverb and delays over twitchy, glitched breakbeats and horn samples and crunchy bass synths. “Isolation”, featuring Peekaboo Streetsweeper, also begins with natural percussion, classical guitar, and dreamy melodica. Soon though, the synths gain the foreground. On previous albums, the overall arc and that of the individual songs was a progression out of nature into technology. But on Fall Line, we are here. We hear the sounds of the city, these worlds exist simultaneously, interwoven, all of a fabric. All pieces contain natural and electronic instruments. All pieces contain repurposed samples of prerecorded work, alongside new purposeful performances. Evidence of Mansfield’s genius is that there is no way of telling these sources apart. What sounds like a sample may have been recorded specifically for this moment in this song. What sounds like a synthesizer may actually be an acoustic guitar, or a trombone, or an infant’s babbling. Every time you get a grasp on a sound, it shifts from under you, leaving you wondering how that synth bass line turned out to be horns under heavy f/x. The line between natural percussion and drum machine glitch-out is ephemeral at best. Things fall apart, coalesce into new shapes, solidify, and shatter over the course of a few bars.
The instrumentation is legion, the feats of engineering Herculean. There is techy dance music, Spaghetti Western soundtrack, Blues-Funk, outer-space Jazziness, hardcore Jungle, a hundred Latin American subgenres and a million rhythmic insinuations. From Folk to Funk, from trance to twitch, the series is an accelerated fever dream of a future that is now. We are here, we have arrived, in the single crowded head space that is an entire species coming to terms with the global empire of Information, the assimilation of myriad cultures into One. The elevated golden causeways of the Metropolis hide innumerable cultures in the shadows, collecting and spasming and interbreeding, enrapt at the mountain of data, enthralled by their own gaze returned by estranged neighbors, desperate to remember, delirious to forget. And riding to the triplet rhythm of a guira, the pounding of a bass drum, the high piping of a pan flute, over highways and streets and down blind alleys atop a giant red bear, comes Piper Street Sound, now become the Shaman/Antenna, eyes closed, listening, and recording. An alchemist with a gas flame and a microphone and a mixing board.
The Fall Line will be released on Monday October 13th by Boom One Records.