Michael Vallera adds effective bite and tension to his latest album of ambient works | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Michael Vallera adds effective bite and tension to his latest album of ambient works 

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Michael Vallera

Michael Vallera

Stephen Vallera

Michael Vallera has worked in a wide variety of Chicago bands including Cleared, Luggage, and Maar, exploring disparate facets of his musical interests, many of them aggressively loud. Over the last few years he’s pursued an interest in meditative ambient sounds. I was a bit surprised that on his 2016 solo debut, Vivid Flu, he’d removed most of the dissonance and bite that’s marked so much of his other music, instead revealing restrained and almost gothic atmospheres. On his follow-up, All Perfect Days (Denovali), he’s convincingly recalibrated his approach, deftly forging a more kaleidoscopic vision of that aesthetic. The title track builds buzzing, soothing layers of sound—a ringing drone is punctuated by stately piano fragments and, as the piece unfolds, increasing flecks of scratchy guitar noise. As crystalline guitar chords float through “In Midafternoon,” little shards of overtones mysteriously splinter off and collide with cleanly articulated arpeggios as they drift through the sound field. “Elon” sandwiches a gorgeous wash of hovering, reverberant melodies with choking, lashing feedback. There’s a tense cinematic quality to “Pale Watered Floor” that feels a bit too schematic in its suspense-film repetitions, but the closer, “Stare,” does a much better job at crafting a humid feeling rife with elusive tension.   v

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