Gabriel Brenner, oka Los Angeles artist Pastel has been moving into deep ambient arenas with a brand new cycle of sacred sounds. With today’s self-release of the new EP absent, just dust-we offer a premiere listen to the echoing & atmospheric feelings that comprise the conventional semantic shattering “stammer”. The follow up to 2016’s Bone-Weary EP (Very Jazzed/Frenchkiss Label Group) finds the artist grappling with their own aspects of identities, contemporary & historic matters pertaining to settler colonialism, the traumas & dysphoria that arises from physical/personal dislocation/displacement, and how all these complexities affect everything from the human, cultural, familial dynamics & more.
Pastel’s “stammer” is the feeling that one has entered a sacred ground. Through syths that speak & sing in sustains like an ancient chorus that rises from their burial ground to aid their offspring against the face of adversarial colonial forces that wish to eradicate all fragments pertaining to heritage/culture & so forth—Brenner creates a solemn & striking piece that both honors ancestry while igniting a lamp to illuminate the courses & conflicts that may well arise in the both our present & future. This is a song that subverts the conventions of language that takes the listener through the pages of lesser known & barely taught histories of first nation cultures with a resonating sound to wake the fallen mothers & fathers of the previous generations. Pastel provides a song for deep meditation & contemplations of the self & identity that will provoke one to take a pause from their busy lives to focus upon the lessons & wisdom that our elders (both present and/or absent in the material world) & kinfolk can teach us about how to respond to the intricacies of our own world today. Gabriel Brenner introduced “stammer” with the following exclusive introduction:
“stammer”, the closing track on absent, just dust, deals most explicitly with an inability to formulate language around the historical and generational trauma tackled in the preceding tracks of the EP. A warm, heavy hum wanders into earshot, while a distant, illegible tone slowly reveals itself to be a soaring tenor; a voice. Suddenly, a deep, reverberating kick appears, as stacked harmonies, staccato piano notes, and synth stabs encircle a lead melody mumbling through vowels and a whispering apparition stumbling over consonants. Right as the voices begin to settle into themselves, the track ends on a chord that feels unresolved. Though a language of sorts is crafted through its very loss, the right words never quite come into focus.
Gabriel also offered up the following introduction to the new EP, absent, just dust:
As I watched thousands of Native water protectors, cornered on a bridge by militarized police armed with a water canon, I found myself wordless. I felt fiery anger, disgust, hopelessness. I cringed at the journalist’s descriptions of the subzero temperatures, watching as icy bullets barraged the crowd below. I understood this brutal violence as yet another extension of a never-ending settler colonialism. The ideas and feelings were there, and yet, speechless.
My mother is part Pima and my father is part Cherokee. Historical and generational traumas led to silencing about it on both sides of the family. Wordless.
absent, just dust came out of a reoccurring desire to craft a language around this loss. Thus, lyrics are sparse on this EP, and when there, gesture towards an idea instead of pin it down. Gave me a card/painting of a woman with a feather in her hair. What do postcards signify, and how do they circulate? How are Native women depicted in popular culture? At times voices are whispering, stuttering, inarticulate (“stammer”, “silhouette”); other times, they are angry, roaring, confrontational (“haunt”); always, they are ghostly, hanging heavy all around but just out of view. With absent, just dust, what I realized is that this loss is a language itself. It is a language that one must sit with and parse through carefully to pull meaning from, a process I will perpetually repeat regardless of how much I come to know about my history, my people, and myself.
absent, just dust will be released on August 25. An extremely limited run of 20 cassettes will also be available for purchase. Half of all proceeds made will be donated to FreshetCollective.org, who have provided continued legal support to water protectors since the founding of the Sacred Stone Camp.