From your starting point in rural Virginia, dig a hole straight down into the earth. If what the kids told you on the playground is true, you’ll end up somewhere in Asia, right? After narrowly escaping the heat of the core, pop your head up through the mantle and take a look around: you’ve reached “West India.”
Mike and Cara Gangloff understand that such an (impossible) journey isn’t necessary to bridge far-flung folk traditions. The taut strings linking carnatic music, Appalachian folk, dhrupad, bluegrass, and minimalism sit right out there in the open, waiting to be plucked: cyclical melodic repetition, the capacity for modal improvisation, the keening voice of the violin, the presence of an underlying drone. A solid line traces across the international folds of the twentieth century from Khansahib Abdul Karim Khan to Pandit Pran Nath to Henry Flynt to John Fahey, branching a few years before the turn of the millennium into the Gangloff-helmed posses of Pelt and the Black Twig Pickers.
Last year, Mike Gangloff issued two full lengths to illuminate his omnivorous folk explorations. The solo effort Poplar Hollow sang out over the tree line with its hushed raga improv and sublime back-porch fiddle workouts. Melodies for a Savage Fix, hammered out over the course of a cabin-bound all-nighter with the mighty Steve Gunn, pitted decidedly “eastern” instrumentation like gongs and tamburas against a flowing stream of six-string melodic mantras. Now, Mike and Cara Gangloff come together to complete this informal trilogy with the collaborative full-length Black Ribbon Of Death, Silver Thread of Life, due November 3 on MIE Music.
Press play on “West India,” premiering above, and feel the knots in your shoulders loosen instantly with the onset of Mike Gangloff’s yearning fiddle. A thick drone from Cara Gangloff’s sruti box hangs over the mix in a benevolent curtain of sustain, shifting its root note in step with the fiddle’s ascending figures to form a conjoined incantation that channels the pioneering string-based drone minimalism of Tony Conrad. As the visual feed, crafted by the musicians themselves, cycles through a slideshow of stills and videos of the natural world, we imagine the roots threading their way through the disparate geographies — rural Virginia, India — that define their compositions. Close your eyes for a moment to focus on Gangloff’s swirling leads. When you open them, there’s no telling where the video will have taken you. Probably somewhere isolated, still, relatively untouched by human hands. Mike and Cara Gangloff make sure to leave no trace as they head back to the cabin.
-- MUKQS, Tiny Mix Tapes