Nate Wooley: Ancient Songs Of Burlap Heroes

Trumpeter leads group that evokes the natural world through electroacoustic sound and field recordings, the latter mostly of wind and water


Trumpeter Nate Wooley’s quartet Columbia Icefield features Mary Halvorson (guitar), Susan Alcorn (pedal steel guitar) and Ryan Sawyer (drums). Their 2019 debut mapped a journey to the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains.

Now they turn to the “burlap heroes”. Wooley describes a burlap hero as “one who marches – consciously or not – back to the sea in hopes of making no splash, who understands and embraces the imperfection of being, and in that way, stretches the definition of sainthood to fit”. I leave that to readers and listeners to figure – for Nate Wooley is deep, both musically and philosophically.

His new album appears on pianist Kris Davis’s excellent Pyroclastic label, and features guest appearances on one track each by violist Mat Maneri and bassist Trevor Dunn. Across three long pieces and four shorter interludes that segue with them, the sublime magnitude of the natural world is expressed through electroacoustic sound and field recordings, the latter mostly of wind and water.

I Am The Sea That Sings of Dust opens with wind-like electroacoustic sounds and contemplative guitars against rustling drums – Ryan Sawyer is always very open and free. It builds up into a ferocious squall, before subsiding into entropy. A Catastrophic Legend begins with machine-like white noise; there’s a haunting, melancholic trumpet solo in free tempo. Returning To Drown Myself, Finally is based on the Swedish dalakoral “Nu är midsommar nat”, and features plangent Wooley solos that contrast with furious work from the rest of the group.

A fascinating, compelling release. 

(…..); I Am The Sea That Sings of Dust; (…….); A Catastrophic Legend; (……..); Returning To Drown Myself, Finally; (……………) (56.20)
Wooley (t, amplifier); Mary Halvorson (g); Susan Alcorn (pedal steel g); Mat Maneri (vla); Trevor Dunn (elb); Ryan Sawyer (d). Mount Vernon, New York, 14-15 October 2021.
Pyroclastic Records