CD Packaging is a Jewel Case
Art by Dr. Woo.
Gossamer is Evan Reiner—the producer, guitarist, synthesizer scientist and urban-spelunking field recorder whose full-length debut Automaton dissolves the genre-breaking electronica of Autechre and Boards of Canada into a bottomless sea of found sound and ambient atmosphere. It’s less an album than an environment all its own, or a journey into the unexplored. And whether it’s inspiring a trip deep into the discography of Steve Reich or into California’s beautifully desolate Ansel Adams Wilderness, it’s that fearless spirit of exploration that brought Automaton to life.
Reiner grew up in the L.A. neighborhood of Eagle Rock with a father telling war stories about seeing Black Flag and the Germs play and with a set of cousins who’d get him started listening to hip-hop. (Especially instrumentals by iconoclastic producers like Premier, RZA and New York’s crushing DITC crew, Reiner remembers.) As he turned 16, he was playing guitar “religiously,” he says, as well as listening intently to Slayer and Cannibal Corpse on the way to ferocious hardcore shows on the fringes of Los Angeles.
By the time he graduated high school, he was a hardcore kid with a heavy grounding in hip-hop who’d developed so tremendously as a guitarist that he was practicing notoriously formidable Django Reinhardt songs for fun. The connection might not seem obvious, but it was there nonetheless—these were three distinct musical forms equally dedicated to passion, individual technique and total commitment to expression.
He won admission to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, where his first semesters in the fall of 2009 were everything he’d hoped. But the more he studied, the clearer it became that he’d need to strike out on his own: “So many professors would tell their students what the right thing to do was in a creative setting,” he says now. “There is no right way.”
He’d once used his computer just to help with his composition homework, but now he was restless. So he began to focus on the potential of electronic music: “I realized it was like having every component of a band at your fingertips,” he says. “It felt free and genuine with no distractions.” He’d begun to make his own field recordings, too, capturing the sounds of Boston at sunrise and stirring them into his beat experiments. Intense study of movie sound and foley artistry, like pouring sand across drum cymbals or using spent shells from a gun range for percussion, gave him a whole new vocabulary, and he found further inspiration in artists from Ai Weiwei to Maya Duren to Stanley Kubrick to Delia Derbyshire—people who blew open the boundaries of their own disciplines.
Then in July 2013, he began to make what would become his first full-length album as Gossamer. He’d rent an armful of microphones and hike to the tunnels under Pasadena’s eerie Devil’s Gate Dam, site of suicides and barely-thwarted summonings in the tradition of Aleister Crowley. (“The echo is crazy,” he says.) During a month in Japan, he recorded “terrifying trains” and cicadas and the squeals of a rusting bicycle. He’d record himself smashing trash under a bridge in downtown L.A., or knocking rebar against rotting wood 8,000 feet above sea level in California’s Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. Then he’d come home—whether “home” at that particular moment was his own studio, a capsule hotel in Japan, a friend’s place in Boston or a temporary space in New York—and “make accidents happen,” he says, with recorders and samplers and guitar and (this time) a stable of analog synthesizers.
The result was Gossamer’s Automaton, a precise and gentle dreamscape of experimental electronica, where the ambient atmosphere of Gas drifts across the fractured beats of Autechre or Boards of Canada. It starts with its own sunrise on “Thoughtform,” where birdsong melts into ghostly vocals and waves of synthesizer, and then shifts into the haunting “Print,” which transplants the sci-fi sensibilities of Vangelis to some desolate and wild new world. His “Okuma” is like a Tortoise song that never touches solid ground, while tracks like  and  recall the Brian Eno of Fourth World, somehow ancient and futuristic at once. When the crickets start chirping on closer “-;- ”, it’s a signal that the day—and the journey—are both coming to an end. It’s might be his first album, but it’s also a first step towards something new.
“Automaton is me,” Reiner explains. “It's my process. It’s a symbol of having accepted that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. It’s a coping mechanism for the struggle to realize and balance what I am and am not in control of in my life. It reminds me of playing Bioshock and watching Blade Runner at the same time while naked in the jungle on another planet. It makes me think of watching an old home video of myself and seeing Neptune right outside my window. The list goes on and on—I could go forever.”