Mission Trips rallies a strange Southern legacy 

Magicicada's Chris White rallies a strange Southern legacy

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Part of the plan with Mission Trips is to release two albums simultaneously, each one mirroring or reflecting the other in abstract, often intangible ways. The first two CDs to arrive bearing Mission Trips' "old rugged cross" logo were Magicicada's Wrack With Ruin and Barter, the debut recording from Currency, a six-piece improv ensemble featuring members of Faun and a Pan Flute and Hello Ocho. Both discs arrived in time for an under-the-radar CD release party in March at the Mammal Gallery, where both acts performed together under the name Currencicada.

Magicicada and Currency don't share any common ground, aesthetically speaking. Magicicada is the work of a lone artist working with electronics. Currency is a large ensemble, playing stringed instruments, woodwinds, and various percussive instruments to create a sound that alludes to jazz but exists beyond jazz music's outer limits. Despite their musical differences, they are two like-minded entities working under different conditions to achieve similar goals.

Both CDs were released in a limited-edition first run of 50 copies with screen-printed sleeves hand-painted by artist Emma Ball. These first two offerings were a test run for the label and the handmade aesthetic that will bind much of the label's output. "We live in an age of mass reproduction," White says. "I just want people to know that in every step of the process someone has their hands on this. Each person involved cares about what we are creating."

Every step of the physical production was overseen by a friend or someone who dedicated their time and energy to creating each release as a labor of love. From Ball's cover paintings to Blossoming Noise label owner Graham Moore screen-printing and schooling White in the ways of label management and printmaking, Mission Trips has taken shape as a true exercise in community involvement.

"I have known Chris for a few years now and have long been impressed with the sounds and imagery he mixes together," Ball said via email. "There was one self-titled Magicicada release, limited to 'about 30 copies,' where the CD case was actually hand-crocheted. That level of painstaking care and attention to every detail really struck me."

Magicicada's Wrack With Ruin was the first album art that Ball tackled for Mission Trips. "Chris wanted a specific gritty ink line kind of style, like I hadn't done in a few years," she says. "It was great fun getting back into that 'inky Zen' headspace, if you will. Nowadays, being a small part of the production process for these kinds of psych and noise releases is hugely validating, particularly when they're local."

Ben Price, who runs East Atlanta's Studilaroche recording studio, has also played a hands-on role in getting Mission Trips off the ground. Price became acquainted with the label while White was working on a remix of "Song Bird's Grave" for the B-side of a Spirits and the Melchizedek Children 7-inch. The two hit it off, and before long Price was mastering both the Magicicada and Currency CDs. Price was also inspired by the "focus on musicians working in Atlanta," he says. "Atlanta has an amazing music scene in multiple genres right now, but it seems under-represented in the media both locally and beyond. Chris is helping to shine a light on the beautiful and strange music that is being created in our backyard."

Price also recorded and mixed a series of live studio recordings with Faun and a Pan Flute that materialized as the group's self-titled vinyl LP (with cover art by Sam Parker) via Mission Trips on June 17. "I'm proud of the way the band embraced the 'live in the studio' mindset," Price says. "It's a fantastic way to capture a band as complex as Faun; the tempo changes are dictated by the musicians' feel rather than a metronome so they retain a human groove, and that's important."

On the other hand, recording environmental sounds and capturing spontaneous performances is something White does daily. It's a compulsion for him, and the 15 tracks that make up Magicicada's Wrack With Ruin were pieced together using recordings made in various places around his home and in different locations around Atlanta and elsewhere around the country over the last two years.

Wrack With Ruin is Magicicada's sixth proper album, not counting the various untitled CDs and tapes he's put out between official releases. From beginning to end, the album fits together as a singular abstract piece, or an amplified journey into White's headspace that comes together like a sonic blitz of soundscapes and truncated patterns. Most of the material heard throughout the disc is grounded by a convoluted atmospheric splatter of sounds that fall like delicate threads of a larger conceptual whole. It's an album that relies on intensity over outright aggression, and is as jarring as it is mysterious. "I laugh when I listen to "In League With Ugly Face," White says. "It's sort of a response to my 14-year-old son asking, 'Dad can you play IDM?' He digs that track and laughs when I 'drop the bells.'"

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