A Minority of One is perhaps an intentional misnomer considering this is very much a collective of Portland-area musicians. Primarily the project of one Jason Hovatter—shoemaker and occasional collaborator with Waldteufel—A Minority of One’s latest offering, Anahata, features members of L’Acephale, Arrowyn Craban Lauer of the incredible and highly missed HEX Magazine, Jason Woodhead of Elemental Chrysalis and At the Head of the Woods, and, of course, the great Markus Wolff of Waldteufel and Crash Worship, among others. While it has already been mentioned that this is primarily Hovatter’s project, it is the theme of collaboration that defines Anahata, and is surely what draws my interest the strongest.
Waldteufel is largely a percussion-oriented group, and the same could be said for A Minority of One. Hovatter always goes into detail about how these songs are created; each track is given a description, influences, and often the kind of instrumentation used. This, in particular, is the second strongest draw to the album, for a number of “invented” instruments have been used to create this minimal rhythm. The first track, “Bowl Sung,” uses a large copper bowl as its sole instrument. Adding water, the pitch is changed, revealing how far a little simple creativity can take. Many of the drums are handmade as well, showing how personal this project truly is.
Rhythm is essentially the foundation for most music, and even more so for a project that mainly focuses on percussion as its voice. A few tracks add samples of people talking and field recordings of water and birds. Considering the album’s minimal nature and its tribal aesthetic, Anahata is both an album that can get you carried away in a trance and enable you to drift off with its rhythms, and an album that is easy to dismiss and simply space out to, forgetting that something is playing at all. It does not demand your attention, but if you accept its beats and choose to align your own rhythm with it, you can certainly have a powerful experience listening to it.
“Wave Rolls (Psychedelic Mix)” is the sole track with guitar of any form and is influenced by L’Acephale. When you are Jason Hovatter and you want to make a song that sounds like a band you enjoy, you simply invite the person over and write a song. The vocals are of course based on the choral classic “Wave Rolls,” and with a great riff it makes this an interesting track to check out.
These various contributions are what some will certainly find to be the most appealing element of Anahata, especially if you are a fan of what is going on musically in the Pacific Northwest. It’s difficult to say where A Minority of One would be if it were simply a solo work. Much of Hovatter’s music does leave one with the impression that behind the tracks are friends simply and comfortably playing music together, which certainly adds a humility to the music that makes it all the more interesting, yet it simultaneously causes the album to lack a sort of professionalism. Anahata‘s inherent inconsistencies and minimalism make this album more of a point of interest for its glimpse into the Pacific Northwest’s music and social scenes.
Outside of this, the album’s strongest aspect is the creativity that went into it. Finding new ways to create sounds is always a point of interest. The songs unfortunately often meander along, not really seeming to go anywhere. One track has some line about the water being shallow, and sounds like it was recorded in a cave. Others can be quite meditative with various droning percussion used. Some tracks sound like completely separate projects, and others are too similar in the sense of the tempo and rhythm that go on unchanged for far too long at times.
Considering this is a snapshot of Hovatter’s life, it’s very biographical and personal. Anahata sounds like exactly what it is: someone else’s trance. It doesn’t sound as if it’s been created for consumption by the ears of strangers, but rather in order to show what another’s experience is like in his own way. During some sections, strange hoots and hollers that are not comprehensible emit out from the background. It’s difficult to imagine what is being conveyed in these moments. Other sections can be quite powerful, almost creating the sensation that the album’s creator is trying to reveal something profound. On another level though, Anahata just feels like an incredibly introspective journey for Hovatter despite its communal presence. In a way, it belongs in that vast gray area between self and community: Anahata exists first and foremost for its creators and those close to their social world to experience and connect to, while maintaining a balance that just barely allows it to be accessible to those beyond its audial periphery. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people that stand beyond the warmth of A Minority of One’s subtle flame will largely be left scratching their heads, wondering what exactly is going on here.
01) Bowl Sung
02) Work Makes Free
04) Sweat of the Face
07) Wave Rolls (Psychedelic Mix)
08) Water Is Love