Private Playlist: The Growth Eternal drops into his favorite musical landscapes and environments

The Growth Eternal. Photo courtesy of the artist

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

The Growth Eternal is the nom du disque of Byron Crenshaw, a Tulsa native and multi-instrumentalist currently living in LA. Following a string of digital singles, Crenshaw released his full-length debut, "Bass Tone Paintings," as The Growth Eternal in 2020. The record is a compendium of one-minute psychedelic jazz numbers with introspective sentiments on Black identity, love for the environment, and social media anxieties. He recently followed it with "Kensho !," an EP of micro-songs which, despite their brevity, demonstrate an ever-deepening artistry. The record's title translates roughly as "seeing one's [true] nature," synonymous with the start of one's journey to enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. Based on the evidence, one imagines a similar artistic path ahead for Crenshaw and The Growth Eternal.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Crenshaw selected a cinematic assortment of songs which evoke landscapes and environments, from Steve Reich to Esperanza Spalding.

“We can still keep the heritage going, but let's make it 2021 and bring our own time and meet our ancestors at the same time.” — The Growth Eternal


Esperanza Spalding's "formwela 2" is part of a three-song set. You can play the three songs in a loop that goes continually. It's very well-paced and cinematic. I love the tones, the patience that went into it, how the harmony slowly evolves and takes its time. It's like a landscape, and it feels temporal, but also static. It feels like it's eternally revolving and eating itself and becoming itself. I went to sleep to it a night ago, and it probably messed up my dreams, but I don't remember it.


I think the thing about BIGYUKI's "Soft Places" that really shines for me, and the [reason] I keep coming back to it, is because it's very beat-heavy, all drums and bass and atmosphere. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to talk about it right after "formwela 2." But I think the difference is that this one feels a bit schizophrenic. It's like a quilt, where you see different parts of very different and sometimes really disparate aesthetics and genres and cultures. But I really appreciate this track because it transparently represents a lot of different things at the same time. And it feels very dense, but it doesn't feel like any one part totally overrides or dismisses another.


I'd like to talk about Steve Reich's "WTC 9/11," specifically the second movement. Even though we're still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I've had time to process what we've been through thus far. As an American, I was thinking, "What else has been so life-changing for literally everybody in this country?" The only other major life event that I've been through personally has been 9/11, even though I feel like the qualities of both of these events were radically different in a lot of different ways. But I was thinking about the quality of how instantaneous 9/11 was, and how much of a slow burn the coronavirus pandemic has been. 

I chose "WTC 9/11" specifically after thinking about that and digesting it, because I think that the way Steve Reich really treats it is really beautiful. It feels very, very visceral, because you hear the actual people talking about their individual experiences of this fucking life-changing and scary moment. And I feel like when you sample shit, especially when it's this sensitive, I feel like you can go very good or you can go very badly. But with Steve Reich, it's exceptionally paced. It's exceptionally done.


Similarly to the BIGYUKI track, I love this because it feels very much like a synthesis. And I love how the melodic and harmonic choices they made sound like folk music, but also electronic in a way. There's so much that can be explored with that vibe of taking something that's very archaic. And I don't mean that in a pejorative way, like "primitive" or "savage," but historically through so many generations. And I think we can still keep the heritage going, but let's make it 2021 and bring our own time and meet our ancestors at the same time.


Deantoni Parks’ vibe, in general, is really interesting. It's really specific and it's very much sonically contained, which I really enjoy. He's a drummer, and he's literally playing the samples not only with his drums, but [as] the drums themselves. I think "Outransient" is very beautiful, because what Deantoni is doing with the drums feels like something that I strive to do with the vocoder. It still sounds like the instrument, and it still feels reflective of everything that's happened before it. But it feels like the actual textures as they progress with time [mirror] how our experiences progress through the lens of technology. And Deantoni is one of the few drummers I've seen that have really milked that, in a way that's very, very beautiful. 

My college roommate showed me Deantoni, and at first I was like, "What the fuck?" because it was just so radical. And hearing the track, it sounds loop-based, but you can't tell that it's one person playing it. And once you see the live video, you're like, "Oh, that's what it is." So it was really cool. I started The Growth Eternal around 2018 because I was tired of expressing myself through the avenues that I [already] had, with academic jazz or side-person gig work. But then I remember hearing Deantoni, and that was pivotal. 


As soon as I heard Asa Tone's "Perpetual Motion Via Jungle Transport," I was like, "Wow" immediately. It definitely feels like a sound environment. There are these textures that are very continuous. I mean, it's in the name, you know, perpetual. It feels similar to "formwela 2" again, but instead of feeling like a temporal, "x-y-z" sort of thing, it's about the tones and the mood. It's about dropping into a space, and I just love it.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

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Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
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Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Pete Tong is comfortable with musical melancholy
Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares music that’s honey to her ears
Mary Lattimore is communing with musical kindred spirits
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Julianna Barwick recommends music with emotion and experimentation
DUCKWRTH brews a perfect blend of classic and contemporary
Maral shares music that creates its own unique world
Lyric Jones is all about music that makes you hit rewind
Open Mike Eagle on dark purple jams and musical velvet paintings
Machinedrum keeps it chill with music for self-reflection
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Qur’an Shaheed is revealing her inner truth through music
Karriem Riggins embraces the infinite possibilities in creating
Xinxin’s Janize Ablaza spins a soundtrack for space travel
Lady Blackbird honors fearless and transcendent artistry
Gabe Goodman longs for the sound of live musicians in a room
Genevieve Artadi is learning Bach and living moment by moment
Frankie Reyes marries technology with tradition
The Koreatown Oddity is raising his daughter on a colorful musical diet
Dante Elephante is slowing down his life with sides of vinyl
Sasami explores the wholesome world of animal songs
Vinyl Williams collects opalescent musical jewels from mysterious beaches
jez.who shares music for empathy and affirmation
Ana Roxanne fills your head with a selection of her favorite vocalists
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Ah Mer Ah Su makes the case for danceable melancholy
Rosie Tucker recommends songs of hope, humor, and resiliency
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Edith Crash shares music that opens doors to other worlds
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Wallice extols the virtues of teenage mixtapes and moody sleepover soundtracks
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