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An Offering

Photay With Nino Carlos

An Offering

Label: International Anthem

Genre: Jazz / Avant Garde


  • LP €28.99
    In Stock
Flowing water is an essential element of Earthly existence, a living force, a process of nature, a path-making which combines infinite sources mixing imperceptibly into a singular energy. It’s also a potent metaphor. A childlike wonder at flowing water’s presence and power, all the impressions it makes and creative neurons that it fires, happens to be a personality trait shared by Evan Shornstein (aka Photay) and Carlos Niño. The two producers/musical connectors may have grown up and reside a continent and daily realities apart — Photay in the forest serenity of New York’s Hudson Valley, Niño on Los Angeles’s ocean-adjacent west side — yet this magnetic power of fluidity, its sound, its meaning, what it can teach us about art and circulation, mesmerizes them both.

Water is the spiritual center of their first album-length collaboration, the vast and deep An Offering — from the visual on the cover, to the first sound you hear on the opening “Prelude,” to the underlying themes and images espoused by the poet-philosopher Iasos on the closing “Existence.” More importantly, the image of water-like flow is a continuous reflection of how these two musicians have come to work together and apart, of the way they made An Offering, and how they’re continuing to create, without a beginning and (hopefully) with no end in sight. An infinite flow of sound, from and to every direction.

Some of this work directly reflects the relationship between the two men, and of where/how Photay’s electronic, often-dancefloor-oriented tracks found Niño’s far-reaching world of ambient spirituality and improvised soundscaping. The meeting point is precise: Laraaji, the new age zither legend with whom Niño regularly collaborates, including at a June 2016 show in New York City which Niño played and Shornstein attended. The connection initiated immediately after that performance did not simply find the pair participating in each other’s recording projects — Photay remixing a Niño-produced Laraaji track and involved in Niño & Friends sessions; Carlos showing up on multiple songs of Photay’s 2020 album, Waking Hours, some of which was recorded at Niño’s studio—but in a broad exchange of ideas.

Niño long ago established himself as one of Los Angeles’ great musical conduits, constructing environments that facilitate partnerships between far-flung artists, perpetuating the freedom of working in the present, outside expectations, trusting the work’s destination. When the younger Shornstein met Niño, his own creative process was ”almost too precious, and it was always my goal to break out of that.” Adapting Carlos’ pacing and free-flowing strategies — scenarios such as sharing recorded stems, bringing in old recordings to serendipitously fit new tracks, or mixing organic improvisations with stylized, post-produced rhythms — transformed Evan’s perspective. It made him rethink ideas like “finished,” shedding pressurized over-analysis for a process he calls “fluid” and “healthy.”

It also made Shornstein reconsider some music they’d recorded but originally left off Waking Hours, “microscopic moments that were more expansive in my mind — there was so much honesty there.” What may not have made sense within the composed, hyper-stylized beauty of Hours, “felt really good” outside that context. Niño, who describes himself as “very album-oriented,” agreed, suggesting they create a unified body of work to match those moments — but not overthink it, make it quick, easy, productive, present. Which is how the re-imagining of pieces of music that became “Change” and “Exist,” sprung Photay and Carlos Niño into collaborating even more closely, and brought An Offering to the world.

The sounds they gathered into an intentional, meditative whole, were made together and apart, and sourced from all over. The two producers made connections between new music and recordings they already had: Shornstein found hours of tape featuring solo playing by Upstate New York harpist Mikaela Davis, which became a central adornment on multiple tracks. Niño sent Shornstein a quartet improvisation he made with tenor saxophonist Aaron Shaw, keyboardist Diego Gaeta and synth-guitarist Nate Mercereau, which became the basis of “Honor.” They brought in trusted partners. The atmospheric blowing of LA-based tenor saxophonist Randal Fisher is a focal point throughout, at times processed by Photay’s machines. Photay’s trombone player Nathaneal Ranson, and Niño’s long-standing LA-based collaborator, vocalist Mia Doi Todd, float in-and-out of the mix. When Niño makes a record, another original “new age” legend, Iasos, is bound to be around, and his strong summation on “Existence” are the only words An Offering submits. The healing energy of Peterskill, a short rocky State Park waterway that ebbs through New York’s Ulster County (and across from Shornstein’s home — “a real environmental inspiration”), flows throughout. “Creating with no constructs,” is how Shornstein describes the process of bringing these elements together. “It was just a feeling, which maybe is what music or creating should always be.”

Peterskill was also the source for a long extra track/outro when An Offering debuted as a Bandcamp-exclusive cassette in October 2021 — and quickly sold out. (A gorgeous Shornstein-directed film accompanied the release as well.) The notion of this music as “offering” came to life in its immediacy (the tape was released only a month and half after the idea for it was seeded) and in its gift-like nature (you can still get the digital version at a price of your own choosing). Scott McNiece of International Anthem found it, and instantly connected with its natural essence, a sound that accompanies one’s movements through difficult moments, the motion of instinctive change, a way to mark the radical period of our time with incremental alterations. Like flowing water affecting an ancient landscape. International Anthem offered to give An Offering a full vinyl release, which is why you are reading this one-sheet right now. And like any current, the interconnectedness between Photay and Carlos Niño, their symbiotic way of informing and influencing each other’s sounds, continues to naturally move forward and shapeshift. They are working on multiple projects together at the moment, and have already completed More Offerings. Flow on!