Cerca’s mesmerizing Mod Pink Relic was inspired by the sounds of the Chesapeake Bay.
An electric meditation on nature, Cerca’s mesmerizing Mod Pink Relic was inspired by the sounds of the Chesapeake Bay. The solo project of Brooklyn-based Darren Hoyt forges a varied modern soundscape out of meditative drones and dense textures. Despite the bold color of its cover art, it’s a balm for anxious times, and emphasizes the relic end of its title more than the mod.
In a recent DM, Hoyt described his childhood in the small town of Weems, VA, which fed the music he makes today. “My bedroom looked out onto the mouth of the Rappahannock, which flowed out into the Bay,” Hoyt writes. “When I was 7-8 my dad gave me one of his old ‘70s tape machines. Every night until I graduated high school, I went to sleep playing a cassette really quietly. Meanwhile outside there were so many subtle squishy ambient sounds coming off the water, boats coming in, ospreys, wind blowing through the marsh and bulrushes behind the house.”
To the young Hoyt, such repetitive sounds were comforting, and youthful memories fuel six dreamy instrumental tracks that clock just over a half hour. Hoyt lists “detuned guitars, tape samples, loops + misc tape and ambient artifacts” as well as bass uke among his instruments, but it’s easy to forget what ingredients go into the final product. Opener “Change Your Name” sweeps in with what sounds like a bowed guitar, Hoyt adding layers of droning loops, a climactic figure recalling Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music.” That ambient landmark is a significant touchstone; much as Eno’s 1975 experiment can be a valuable aid in meditation, Hoyt’s work suits reflection, and as birdsong and the hint of rippling water come in before the track closes, it encourages us to ponder the organic cycle of life.
Cerca deploys nature sounds with a subtle hand, so that when that birdsong on “Change Your Name” fades out, it’s still in mind when “Frontier” checks in, its layers of strings and loops suggesting Popul Vuh; like those German proggers, Cerca’s expansive music is cinematic. While much of the album is abstract, its instrumentation tantalizingly ambiguous, “Contracting City” begins with more straightforward layers of strummed guitars before otherworldly layers swoop in. If the track’s title invokes 18th century American pioneers, then the guitars are wagon wheels holding down the fort as travelers move through dangerous sounds of the wilderness.
The region whose sound enchanted Hoyt as a boy became a source of embarrassment when he saw more of the world. “Only when I was a teenager and traveled elsewhere in Virginia did I realize that everyone pretty much looked down on the Northern Neck as a very backward place,” he told Spectrum Culture. “Every summer camp or field trip, kids treated us like we were 20 years behind the times.” Now in New York, worlds away from his boyhood stomping grounds, the isolation that helped formed him makes his music that much more distinct. While much ambient music is steeped in technology, Cerca keeps his roots in a pre-industrial era. Hoyt’s father taught him how to navigate by the stars, and this informs “Celestial Navigation of the Chesapeake, 1985” which plays like a Herzogian expedition through some amplified swamp. The closing title cut again relies more on electric guitar, the sequencing suggesting a narrative that weaves in and out of the past and present. The arrangement is for the most part “Mod Pink,” but in the context of the album all that reverb invokes the waterways that imprinted on the artist’s psyche at an early age. Which makes Mod Pink Relic a kind of instrumental autobiography that takes the listener far away from the world’s troubles. Isn’t that what you need right now?