Across and Beyond Formation: Evan Miller’s Transfigurations on Lap Steel Guitar

By Kelly Ginger

“Collage is for me a way to explore, not necessarily the thing I am tearing up, but the thing I am contriving to build out of torn pieces.”
-Keith Waldrop

I have been thinking a lot about collage lately – about what it means to work with dissonance. I see it everywhere. Or, maybe I’m just looking, so perhaps, sometimes, I’m finding it where it doesn’t exist. Or, maybe there is something about how we’re living that makes it seem like collage is more sensible than any other kind of composition. Evan Miller’s (somewhat recently released album) Transfigurations On Lap-Steel Guitar from Arbor speaks to this – a reconfiguration of what it means to work, create, and to speak.

Side A is hard to describe. The first track entitled “Schist” is a drone piece, subtle and silent, then “Floss” comes, with only about 2 minutes left of the side, as a sort of cacophony, but the purpose for this seems unclear. The collage seems less evident, or perhaps it doesn’t seem as seamless as side B. It seems with side B the materials involved begin to stand on their own, but by standing on their own, also begin to blend together. Side B fades from soft cricket inspired leaky faucet Iowa to minimal slide guitar – looping stairways, like a poem by Laura Riding. If guitar had rhyme, and maybe it does, I’d say this works like one of her poems: mixing traditional sound patterns with nontraditional means of phrase. The two tracks on this side (“Marvels Of Creatures And Strange Things Existing” and “Asphodel”) are obviously different, but are still in communication, and it is communication that is important when working with collage. That is why the Waldrop quote makes sense, because it isn’t about these separate items, so much as how they work together. I’m also not saying side A doesn’t matter or isn’t any good, because it does, and it is; it sets the mood for side B. And if there is one thing I know about desire, and wanting, it has a lot to do with waiting, and side B is definitely worth getting to.