The National Park Service is the recording project of Ohio-resident Bill Delaney who makes a distinctive mix of drone, ambient and folks sounds. His latest album, Secret Wind, is out now on Lily Tapes & Discs. Here’s what the label have to say about the album – “Secret Wind is the clearest distillation yet of the knotty aural terrain that NPS calls home, perfectly encapsulating the autumnal psychedelia and sun-fried tape experimentation that’s been the cornerstone of their discography while building it up even higher. Like a chilly late afternoon hike and the breathless drive back home, it invigorates as it soothes.”
That’s a pretty good description to my ears. The skittering percussion and winding guitar on ‘Knowing 1’ are as autumnal as brittle leaves on the wind. Things get decidedly colder on ‘Blind Edit (Knowing 2)’, which has this strange and desolate vibe that fits perfectly with the photograph on the album art, like the sound of a gale making voices on some arctic tundra or empty plain. It morphs after around two minutes, becoming insular and indistinct, almost as if Delaney has come in from the cold and shut a heavy door behind him, tape hiss like the crackle of a fire, the long slow drones like the oncoming fingers of sleep.
‘Smooth J’ begins all skittering percussion and echoing guitar, like a gentle, psych-tinged take on epic post rock, before a strange field-recorded interlude of muffled, indecipherable voices. The title of ‘The Heat is On’ is somewhat misleading, a drawn out drone that sounds sparse and cold, before ‘Still Life Photographer’ breaks the ten minute mark with its rattle and sway and surreal, midnight distortion. The final track, ‘Thrown into the Water’, is the longest of all, opening with twitchy drums and smooth elliptic guitar, hitting its stride to become the perfect meditative driving song, complete with skating synths, unfurling guitar and noisy reverberating interludes. The percussion falls away after around ten minutes, leaving a shifting ambient atmosphere that feels somehow transcendental, a moment of perfect clarity to close the tape.