Between classroom Zooms and ambient music memes, Matthew Sage has cultivated multiple solo and collaborative projects since his last dispatch with us. First to surface was cached, an intermedia platform based in Chicago, home to limited-edition sound/print/art objects and semi-regular performance streams — guests so far include Dustin Wong, Forest Management, Lee Noble, and Claire Rousay.
Next came the quartet comprised of Chris Jusell (violin), Chaz Prymek (guitars, field recordings, voice), Patrick Shiroishi (alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, glockenspiel, samples, whistling, voice), and Sage (keyboards, percussion, voice, field recording). Their remote, cross-continental sessions led to Fuubutsushi (風物詩), a collection of hospitable, autumnal ambient jazz songs released last September to an unexpected swell of support. They followed it up earlier this month with Setsubun (節分), a crisp air offering “fresh with possibilities” as they put it, hinting at future editions for spring and summer.
During all this Sage dusted off an older alias, Free Dust, once a depository for daily recordings, now reinvigorated with new material. Released in January on Past Inside the Present, Woo’d Early follows the same constraints of those initial rituals — electric guitar and a few pedals — enacted as gentle morning reflections.
With more slated, Sage pauses for an aqueous turntable set, his seventh of the seventy-nine episodes. He sets it up:
“Just over a year ago I made a mix for S&S called ‘Fireside Reverie’ that was meant to transport listeners out of their stuffy 5k fireside winterized dens, then in the throes of what was an especially cold and sunless spell in midwinter of 2020, into a wooded fairytale dreamland. Escapism was the modus operandi, with the idea that interesting speaker sounds could transport folks out of their cabin fever and into the worlds they missed due to inhospitable weather. Now, looking back, that mix was eerily premature before for a too-long spell spent mostly indoors, mostly isolated, mostly needing escapism. Pre-covid …
In honor of the all-too-marooned sensibilities that we are beyond familiar with now, I am glad to present what may be a sequel to last year’s mix. This one is called ‘Lost at Sea.’ Here is over an hour of ambient washes, jazz dub freak outs, electronic splashes, and high tide lullabies. I am persistently obsessed with Tomita’s Bermuda Triangle and couldn’t help but put another one from that album on here. Also included is a track from the recently deceased Harold Budd. I am very thankful for Budd’s work and his impression on ambient music is indelible.
I think, if there is a message in this bottle as it washes onto your shore, it is that being marooned affords an opportunity to be yourself in a way that being “in the world” does not. This isn’t a ‘self-centered’ idea, but instead more a ‘being centered inside yourself.’ We, of course, need friends, communities, cultures… but I am begrudgingly grateful for this year I have gotten to spend becoming more familiar with myself than I would normally be.”