Logan Square’s music scene is a little fractured. With one or two exceptions that come to mind, many of the well-known venues in the neighborhood aren’t associated with one particular style of music, or any associated subculture. So, perhaps it must be said that Logan Square today can’t really be strongly associated with one particular set of musicians or artists. However, the open-minded, arts-forward spirit of the neighborhood makes Logan a perfect incubator for the underground music communities that choose to establish here.
Dash Lewis, aka Gardener, is an electronic musician/synthesist living in Logan Square, and an integral member of a community of ambient and drone musicians living, working, recording, and performing in Logan Square. Also including two artists previously profiled in this column, Daav B and Kyle Landstra, this motley assortment of mutually supportive musicians and friends seems to have found an ideal neighborhood in which to grow together artistically.
Lewis admits that his music demands a more hushed, attentive crowd than your typical assortment of bar patrons, and mentions that the number of DIY venues, galleries and other art spaces in and around Logan attract savvy audiences. Gardener’s compositions are highly abstract, and evoke stark, vast otherworldly landscapes constantly in flux, that inspire wonder, cleanse the mental palate and transport the consciousness. Because Lewis leaves himself room for improvising when performing live, he describes his shows as a process of “reading the crowd” and being prepared to change directions when a sound movement “becomes too alienating.”
While Lewis knows well how to engage with audiences, his love of ambient music, music that’s, as he says “blissed out,” stems from a more interior felt experience. “I’m a very anxious person,” says Lewis. He tells me how the steady drone of ambient synthesizer music provides solace for an active mind, and I begin to understand this comfort as we session cassette after cassette of dreamy, sparkling ambient compositions from Dash’s collection. Dash eagerly points out passages from the tapes that fascinate him as he recounts important musical influences.
As for his own material, Dash has a pretty wide catalog. In 2015, he put out a self-released cassette, which he promoted at his live shows. Gardener also appears on one entire side of Baro Records’ 2015 dual-cassette split release, Skyward Territories, which also features a side by Kyle Landstra.
This year, Baro Records, a Chicago outfit, will release Here You Are Here, the latest solo album from Gardener, in a run of 100 pink cassettes. The album will also be available digitally on Baro’s bandcamp site beginning Jan. 19. For more of Gardener’s catalog, check out his own Bandcamp here.
Photos: Cory Malnarick