Li – Great Leap Forward

Posted: 6 August 2021 in Albums
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Dret Skivor – DRET008 – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from Dret Skivor, a Swedish tape label specialising in drone and various shades of experimental noise, is the new album from Danish maker of electronic noise Thomas Li, who, as Li, has self-released almost a dozen works digitally. Biographical details are less than minimal, and that’s cool. Why do we need to know about the artist, their background or their back catalogue? Do we really need to know the context or the intent, the theory behind a work? Sometimes, when it’s an experimental work informed by theory or a certain concept, it helps, because the concept and theory are integral to both the process and the end product. Then again, there’s a danger that sometimes said theory or concept can impinge on one’s appreciation of the work. Sometimes, it’s best to just be able to listen, and allow oneself to be immersed in the sound, without pouring over lengthy liner notes, researching myriad avenues presented by the references, and straining one’s brain over concepts. This is particularly true of many works of a more ambient persuasion. I’m not remotely anti-academic or anti-intellectual – quite the opposite. But sometimes, you just need a break, and music can be the perfect conduit to vital headspace. An overemphasis on context can detract from the often underrated pleasure of simply listening, and enjoying.

Admittedly, enjoyment of an album like this is the preserve of a small minority: it doesn’t contain any ‘tunes’, it’s beatless, and it’s not always entirely mellow either. But it does have a great deal of texture, and this is something you can really lose yourself in.

Great Leap Forward contains three tracks, with side one occupied with the two-part ‘Olympia’ and the second side containing the eighteen-minute monster title track.

‘Olympia I’ is nine minutes of dense, churning drones, billowing sonic clouds that choke and smother, while counterpart ‘Olympia II’ gurgles and churns a dark whirling cyclone of sound. The latter is more interesting, sonically, with a lot more going on – meaning it’s also more challenging and more tense, as crackles and hums fizz and spin from the dank depths of bubbling noise.

The title track is altogether less tumultuous and more background ambient by comparison. Being eighteen minutes in duration, on the face of it, not a lot happens: there are no climactic blasts of noise, there’s nothing explosive or even overtly disruptive. And yet for all its subtlety, it is engaging, and there is movement, there are shifts and distract and divert. Howling winds blast over barren landscapes of drifting sand and strains of treble and whines of feedback emerge from the eternal mid-range rumble that drones on, and on, and on.

In the context of his output to date, this may not really be quite such a great leap forward, but it does clearly mark an evolution and an expansion on the soundscapes sculpted on previous works. And, played with the accompaniment of a candle and some CBD-infused beer, Great Leap Forward is a well-executed soundtrack to mental recuperation.

AA

tape label grab for bandcamp

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