Boomkat Product Review:
Another head-melter from Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman's Freedom To Spend, Cheri Knight's "American Rituals" re-casts Steve Reich's scene-shifting avant minimalism as itchy basement dwelling post-punk.
'American Rituals' is the perfect title for Knight's peculiar set of home recorded experiments. The Olympia, Washinton-based artist was best known for her work with alt-bluegrass act Blood Oranges, but her solo work is where it really gets interesting. Opening track 'Prime Numbers' sets repeating phrases and counts against rhythmic claps and a broken kick pattern, nodding to Steve Reich's pulse experiments and phasing records (particularly 'Clapping Music') but never losing the sublime nonchalance of the 1980s Cascadian DIY scene. 'Tips On Filmmaking' is even deeper, softly edging into view with bulbous drones before dissipating into marimba patterns and chanted vocals; it's deeply American music, but links back to an older tradition of musical communication than American primitive songs or crackly country recordings.
On 'Water Project #2261', Knight evokes a peaceful meditation using piano, glassy percussion, synth pads and Eno-esque plastic bass. It locks into the era's new age and ambient traditions, but sounds simultaneously divorced from that scene's repetition, hinting at edgier (and markedly less processed) sonic vistas. Long-form closer 'No One's Hands' is the album's most impressive track, and balances Knight's lullaby vocal coos with barely-audible whispers that provide an ahead-of-its-time ASMR effect that's not a million miles from Robert Ashley's foundational "Automatic Writing".
'American Rituals' feels homebrewed but never self-consciously lo-fi - providing a valuable looking glass into a fertile corner of time where punk, folk music and intelectual experimentalism existed concurrently and in perfectly broken harmony.