Charlie Butler – Gathering Dust

Posted: 19 February 2021 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Panurus Productions – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Charlie Butler’s Gathering Dust is something of a departure for Newcastle tape label, PANURUS Productions, in that it’s incredibly mellow. It’s not a complete departure, through: designed as a cassette release, it features two longform tracks, each fitting neatly onto one side of a good old C30 (the likes of which I used to get from Maplins back in the early 90s) – or, in an ideal world, perhaps one side of a 12” or 10” vinyl release. But we know that for a niche label like this, the cost of a vinyl run is prohibitive, and while their print runs are extremely limited, they do sell out – which is the perfect operating model: knowing the scale of their audience and sales reach, and catering to demand without massively overreaching, means costs are covered, and everyone wins. There’s a stream and digital download for anyone who wants it, after all. Everyone’s a winner.

The album title is in fact an amalgamation of the individual titles of the two tracks, and separated, the context shifts a little. Gathering dust connotes a lack of movement, a stasis, something that’s essentially furniture, something neglected, unused. This places the power of word association in sharp relief: together, the words suggest something very different in contrast to when they’re independent of one another.

And so ‘gathering’ brings connotations of collecting, bringing together, of hunter—gathering. And from the dense, swirling drone of a trilling keyboard on the fifteen-and-a-half-minute track that is ‘Gathering’ emerges a slow-picked guitar. The drone und strang approach, whereby echo and tube crunch coalesce to envelop the guitar in a soft sonic bubble is highly reminiscent of latter-day Earth and Dylan Carlson’s solo releases. It doesn’t ‘do’ much, and doesn’t need to: ‘Gathering’ is a long, slow, and expansive work that explores atmosphere.

‘Dust’ is a deep, sense drone that billows and booms, and is indeed reminiscent of the heavy drone of Sunn O))). Its effects are soporific, and for a time my notes are sparse as I drift and move beyond the immediate environs of my workspace to immerse myself in this thick fog of a composition as it slowly unfurls with its post-rock leanings and immersive atmosphere. There’s a tonal warmth that surrounds this, and it borders on ambience at times, and dust washes and drifts like particles descending. And over time, it builds… and builds, swirling into a dense, billowing sonic cloud. The final minutes are reminiscent of the eternal drone of Earth 2 – and being one of my all-time favourites, that’s very much a compliment and an indication of just how textured and enthralling Charlie Butler’s brand of drone is.

Gathering Dust is remarkably dense, but it’s not heavy per se. It’s one of those releases you can simply surrender to, and lose yourself in the enormity of the sound.

AA

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