Album Review: Cassie Wieland & Erich Barganier, ‘in a (once-)blossomed place’

in a once blossomed place
Cover art captured and designed by Yaz Lancaster.

An album driven by the sonic exploration of displacement, in a (once-)blossomed place features two works by Brooklyn-based, Illinois-born composer Cassie Wieland, and two works by NYC-based, Florida-born composer Erich Barganier. Released on people | places | records, it’s the first in a series of “split-composer releases” by the DIY- and punk-inspired new music label. In featuring two works by two composers using timbres and textures in different ways, the goal is to showcase different compositional processes and means of expression.

The result is an album that features two radically different sonic landscapes: Wieland experiments with highly detailed rhythms and textures while Barganier channels chaos through free sound. But an undeniable feeling of uneasiness is the sonic undercurrent that draws the collection together. 

Wieland’s “Strange Objects” opens the record with a high-pitched electronic noise, an almost otherworldly entity. For Wieland, music is often a vessel for probing human interaction and expression. Through “Strange Objects,” she seeks to explore the familiar dichotomy of misplacement – a feeling, to her, that can be welcomed, hated, or sometimes both. She illustrates this contrast by combining intimate sounds with sonic depth, all through electronics. The music is nearly tangible – featuring sharp rings, grating crunches, and soothing scratches over an intense, ambient backdrop.

“Weeds,” the second piece on the record, is a follow-up to “Strange Objects.” It’s an acoustic work premiered and commissioned by line after line percussion, an Austin-based percussion trio, who are also recorded for the track. Inspired by an HGTV special that described weeds as “simply something growing where [they] shouldn’t,” Wieland wrote the piece to explore the need for balance, growth, and ultimately, familiarity, while occupying a new environment. She exhibits these needs through initially unsettling sounds that eventually become familiar to us as we listen, driven by layers of swishing cymbals and repeating, syncopated marimbas.

The sonic landscape completely shifts on the album’s b-side, which opens with Erich Barganier’s “The Veneer Melts.” Barganier regularly explores a variety of musical styles and influences in his music. In “The Veneer Melts,” he combines harsh noise inspired by Japanese sound artist Ryoji Ikeda, blues music, and found sound from CB trucker radio. The result is sonic chaos. Two violinists – on the recording Flora Hollifield and Yaz Lancaster – are in a constant match with the crescendo of buzzing electronics (programmed by Barganier). The fervor of their playing is the ultimate driving force and highlight of the piece: together they create an aching screech made of continuously growing glissandos that reach a fever pitch that never seems to come down.

Barganier approaches “Калі Я Адкрыў Вочы,” or “When I Opened My Eyes,” with a similar sonic landscape. Here, flutes – played by Grace Quigley and Victoria Santospago – instead of violins provide an anxious flutter in combination with piano and electronics. The sound of both pieces is almost deafening, from their loudness but also from their relentless strain. 

in a (once-)blossomed place is a stark investigation of displacement through different sonic textures, timbres, and processes. The album sonically guides us through the stages of anxiety, eschewing answers for exploration, finding its groove in the questions it probes rather than the answers it seeks.

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