- As Golden Donna, Portland's Joel Shanahan found himself at the crossroads of abstract synth music and DIY dance a few years back, releasing two albums for Not Not Fun and 100% Silk. Full of wandering melodies and earworm basslines, the Golden Donna records orbited around house music without locking into its tracky pulse. Auscultation is Shanahan's latest project—named for an ethereal track from Golden Donna's II—which keeps the dance floor at arm's length as it frames it through the soft-focus lens of ambient techno. Following Auscultation's debut on 1080p last year, Shanahan brings the project to 100% Silk with the groovy and atmospheric L'étreinte Imaginaire.
On L'étreinte Imaginaire (meaning "embrace imagination"), Shanahan starts slowly and moves slowly. "Promise You'll Haunt Me" crystallizes pliable, velvety chords out of an ambient wash, before weighty bass notes trace circles around the otherwise glacial beat. Shanahan's basslines have always been the most recognizable part of his work, and on L'étreinte Imaginaire they're even more vital, digging complex but catchy tunnels underneath the music's soft, pillowy surface.
With the exception of their low end, most tracks feel blurry and distant. Each leaves behind a sort of vapor trail, only adding to the illusory feel of L'étreinte Imaginaire. Rather than relying on his greased lens as a crutch, Shanahan uses it as a filter on a variety of sounds, like the future-funk bounce of "Composure Fuzz" or the jazzy house of "Black Window," which has a massive atmospheric sprawl. That bleary quality lends Auscultation a crucial meditativeness: rather than droning on listlessly, you barely notice most tracks last around nine minutes. It all develops so gradually that shifts are nearly imperceptible. "Drop Off" starts nearly silent, and before you know it, Shanahan is mixing chords and loops into a bobbing, aquatic groove. "Lost You In The Fog" rises to a slow-motion storm, with dramatic hats and resonant leads that ring like church bells.
Shanahan's compositional skills have improved since his first few records as Golden Donna, but the DIY sensibility remains. In this context, that means loose structures rather than lo-fi crunch or scuzz, and it solidifies a new direction for the label. Long considered the quirky dance-not-dance offshoot to Not Not Fun, 100% Silk's earliest releases largely presented outsider dance music that thrived on weirdness. Now, with records like Jupiter Jax's Visions, the LA outpost is maturing into an ethereal, occasionally majestic take on house and techno. There's yet to be a better example of this shift than L'étreinte Imaginaire.
01. Promise You'll Haunt Me
02. Drop Off
03. Black Window
04. Composure Fuzz
06. Stranded Love
07. Lost You In The Fog