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It all began with the Tascam Portastudio. For Asheville electronic musician Ross Gentry, it continues to be one of his prized possessions. “My dad bought it for me when I was 12”, he says. “We were at Mars music, and this was the floor model, unboxed, bought as-is. Everything since is a bigger version, but those childhood moments, playing with it in my room, are some of my most joyous.” It’s telling that, instead of a guitar or piano, Gentry points to a machine for mixing and layering as the catalyst for music. That image—Gentry tinkering on the Tascam—is emblematic of his ethos and sound, one that honours a swelling melodicism and spacious texture, one that values memory, nostalgia, and the place he calls home.

Gentry first forayed into ambient music in 2006 under the moniker Villages with a fifty-copy, self-released, self-titled CD-R. He mostly passed it out at shows to friends and colleagues. Though lower-fi than later releases, even on this earliest recordings, Gentry’s deft touch rears its head. Synths ground the compositions, punctuated by undulating, granular shifts.

His first label release, The Last Whole Earth EP, a four-song assemblage that came out in 2008, builds on two prior self-releases, the self-titled album and Winter Window, and paves the way for his first album and the work that followed. The EP is cinematic and evocative, especially swan song Lasting, an ebbing and flowing composition that develops and cascades over twelve-minutes. When he expanded the EP into his debut album, The Last Whole Earth, a double LP for Harvest Records, Gentry stretched Lasting into a nearly-thirty minute suite. The collection is a revelation in sound quality and detail—the low end rumbles and massages, high frequencies twinkle, dive, swirl. It’s a line in the sand and springboard alluding to the artist’s ensuing, finely-tuned forays. Since then, Gentry’s released multiple albums under the name Villages, as well as in the psych rock trio Nest Egg, before shirking off the nom de guerre for his own. Under his given nomenclature, he’s released four albums on labels such as oscarson, Adversary, Polar Seas Recordings, and most recently, American Dreams Records. 

Despite creating wordless music, Gentry is constantly conversing with past and land. Born and raised in rural Kentucky before heading to Asheville, the Appalachian mountain range and its music has its marks all over his music. “I don't make mountain music, but I love it”, Gentry explains, “and I love incorporating those elements into what I do”. On albums like The Spilling Past and Theories of Ageing the musician leans more fully into that mindset and history, utilising banjos, strings, and other instruments as sonic signifiers.

This was simply a sign of things to come. As he’s matured, Gentry’s has built out his instrumentation and sonic palette, enlisting other musicians to provide strings and orchestral elements to buttress his glacial compositions. His work continues to accrue in scale and precision.


Artist notes:
This piece of music is about levity. About memories existing in a dream state. The idea was to create an uninterrupted, deep listening piece of music that lives in that out of body space just before sleep. That space to me feels equally absent and present. The mind is awake and the body is asleep. It’s a place where I have consistently found endless inspiration. I am always inspired by the vague mysterious nature of my dreams. I never quite remember them fully. Only small segments and images. It began as a recording to be used as a personal sleep aid. A series of minimal, formless drones to help my mind wind down and enter a meditative state before sleep, slowly began to find more purpose and form as I allowed certain tones to ring out and modulate naturally. I began adding synth textures and piano to build upon the background layers of low drones. The ghostly voice recordings layered throughout are processed recordings of my great grandmother singing traditional Appalachian folk songs on her back porch. The progression of this piece is meant to become more linearly engaging and pulsing as it moves forward, with the introduction of rhythms and pulses toward the end and finally a processed acoustic guitar movement. Perhaps an attempt to imitate or emulate the feel of a back porch in Appalachia. 

Extended and deep listening music has always played a very important part of my existence as a listener and as an artist. When I am recording I am always striving to achieve an uninterrupted, fully engaging experience that draws the listener to that out of body space. As a listener I make frequent conscious efforts to eliminate all distractions, sit down in front of the speakers and engage with long form music the way the artist has intended it to be heard. It’s important for me to find these moments with sound where time seems to cease to exist for a moment and I can fully reset my headspace. For me it is the highest form of meditation.

Mastered by Simon Scott at SPS Mastering