Azusa Plane, Where the Sands Turn to Gold

Rob Young

By Rob Young

on 03.19.12 in Reviews
Homemade tracks that make a loss feel gigantic

This two-album retrospective compiles the prodigious output of Philadelphia guitarist Jason DiEmilio, whose lo-fi/shoegaze group Azusa Plane — active mainly in the 1990s — included guitarist Jason Knight and (occasionally) drummer Quentin Stoltzfus. At times suffocatingly dense, these homemade tracks swell up and outward like gas giants composed of controlled feedback waves. Like a more scientific MBV, Azusa Plane’s gorgeously abrasive textures were infinitely malleable: they could take the shape of sweet indie pop (“Live At Leeds”), they could serve as hero salutes (“Shooting Speed With Lou Reed,” “Calvin Johnson Has Saved Rock For An Entire Generation”), even score political points (“United States Direct Investment In Other Countries”). But the titles serve mostly to break down one long, mantric drone emanation into manageable chunks. Sadly DiEmilio, a longtime sufferer from tinnitus and hyperacusis, or ultra-sensitivity to sound frequencies, committed suicide in 2006, unable to cope with the pain his beloved music inflicted on him. Listening through these collected works, the loss feels gigantic.