Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Pilgrimage of the Soul is the 11th studio album in the 22-year career of Japanese experimental rock legends, MONO set for release on 17th September (Pelagic Records)

Recorded and mixed – cautiously, anxiously, yet optimistically – during the height of the COVID- 19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, with one of the band’s longtime partners, Steve Albini, Pilgrimage of the Soul is aptly named as it not only represents the peaks and valleys where MONO are now as they enter their third decade, but also charts their long, steady journey to this time and place.

Continuing the subtle but profound creative progression in the MONO canon that began with Nowhere Now Here (2019), Pilgrimage of the Soul is the most dynamic MONO album to date (and that’s saying a lot). But where MONO’s foundation was built on the well-established interplay of whisper quiet and devastatingly loud, Pilgrimage of the Soul crafts its magic with mesmerising new electronic instrumentation and textures, and – perhaps most notably – faster tempos that are clearly influenced by disco and techno. It all galvanizes as the most unexpected MONO album to date – replete with surprises and as awash in splendor as anything this band has ever done.

MONO began in Japan at the end of the 20th Century as a young band equally inspired by the pioneers of moody experimental rock (My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai) and iconic Classical composers (Beethoven, Morricone) who came before them. They have evolved into one of the most inspiring and influential experimental rock bands in their own right. It is only fitting that their evolution has come at the glacial, methodical pace that their patient music demands. MONO is a band who puts serious value in nuance, and offers significant rewards for the wait.

Watch the music video for first single ‘Riptide’, a film by Alison Group now:

AA

MONO

Vinyl Eddie Records – VINED006 & VINED007 – 9th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Opposites and opposition – and the way in which those contrasts are core to our understanding of the world and our place in it – have been key points of exploration in art for centuries. The concept of either / or, light / dark, heaven / hell is the foundation of Judaeo-Christian religions and those polarities became the core tropes of Elizabethan poetry, at the dawn of modern literature. Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ cements these tropes that have come to define both internal conflict, the turmoil of love, and the fundamental dichotomies of the human condition.

And yet it’s Earth’s Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, released in two parts that comes to mind when presented with Soma Crew’s new offering, a twin vinyl release capturing two days’ intensive recording to collectively forge one monumental document of the band’s creative work since the release off 2019’s F for Fake in 2019.

I know, I know I always say the same when writing of Soma Crew – which I have done often since they formed under the guide of Muttley Crew back in 2013 – that they get better with every release, with every show. But that’s the simple fact of the matter. They tend not to deviate far from their psychedelic drone style that’s most reminiscent of Black Angels, but that isn’t to say they don’t push their limits in the execution. But most importantly, they know how to batter away at a riff for an age and whip up a psychedelic haze.

Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a slow-burner, and marks something of a shift, and on first listen, I was a shade concerned by the lack of motoric beats and shimmering walls of distortion and delay rippling over cascading riffs. But this is the new direction: the beats are still motoric, but simply more minimal and subdued, and the emphasis has shifted toward a more understated and minimalist sound.

The first track, ‘Phantom’ starts off simple, plugging away at a four-chord riff with a hint of swagger that’s almost Primal Scream. The guitar sound is clean, shimmering, and Si Micklethwaite’s vocal is pretty low in the mix, meaning everything blends together gently. There are heavy hints of early Fall about the six-and-a-half-minute ‘You’re So Cool’ – the easy-tripping clean guitar with its naggingly repetitious riff is straight off Live at the Witch Trials or Dragnet. It’s simple, it’s immediate, and the fact it was recorded on the spot only accentuate these qualities.

Soma Crew don’t do short songs: of the twelve here, only two are under five minutes, with the majority clocking in around the six-minute mark. There’s plenty of throbbing bass runs and repetitions and spacey slide guitar going on here, and these qualities are integral to the Soma sound. They’re not a ‘chorus’ band, but a band who create a hypnotic atmosphere through their endlessly cyclical riffs and the plod of the percussion – by no means a criticism here, as drummer Nick understands that less is more – using a setup consisting solely of snare and floor tom for the duration. This minimal ‘Bobby Gillespie’ setup works well, meaning the instruments occupy the space – or don’t – instead of the conventional sound whereby crashing cymbals fill the sound the a load of top-end mess that so often sounds crap.

‘There’s a Fire’ steps up the urgency eight songs in, but instead of going all guns blazing with distortion and a blast of cymbals and snares, Soma Crew hold steady. The slow down again for the forlorn country meandering of ‘Broken Matches’ and counterpart ‘Machines’ with some nice lap steel work, and there’s no question that Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a more ponderous, reflective set of songs, and rather than being a set of two distinct halves, it’s very much a coherent and unified work.

If anything about Out Of Darkness / Into Light intimates production values that eschew slickness and polish, that’s one of its real selling points: recorded live over two days in January 2020, this is a band at work, and it’s an album that captures what they actually sound like, rather than a studio-based tweaked and fiddled fantasy version of what they might sound like if they were another band entirely. Hearing them stripped back and sparse, they sound musically confident even while Micklethwaite’s plaintive vocal navigates seams of self-doubt and introspection through the lyrics, and this album shows that plugging away at simple, cyclical chord structures is as effective and hypnotic without the deluge of effects as with.

AA

a3992898530_10

Dret Skivor – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Swedish cassette label Dret Skivor continue to expand their catalogue at pace with another made-for-tape two-tracker in the shape of Hammarö Stickning Kubb’s Storbror Ser Dig. As is customary, biographical information for the label’s seventh release is nil, and technical information is sparse, the accompanying notes simply stating ‘Six oscillators, reverbs, psychoacoustics, voices in your head, chance methods.’

Methodologically, this evokes the spirit of John Cage – substitute eight or twelve radios with six oscillators, retain the random, and, well, there you have it. The fascination of the random – particularly where there are multiple operatives or machines involved – is the way it can yield moments of unanticipated interplay. It’s not just about the overlaps and intersections, either, but the spaces where one or more of those elements is not participating or contributing. It’s here where the potentials of permutation present themselves. Maths, I‘ll freely admit, isn’t one of my greatest strengths, but the permutations of six clearly offer significant numbers of variations. And on the one hand, while it is mathematical, there is also a strong musical and literary lineage of permutational work, with Brion Gysin’s permutational poems being a strong example of how a simple phrase consisting of maybe four, five, or six words can yield a substantial array of variants through the process of permutation. Then, of course, there is Dret label founder Dave Procter’s own Fibonacci Drone Organ project, which is – as the name suggests – mathematically based.

The permutational aspect of Storbror Ser Dig – split across two twenty-minute pieces, ‘Storbror.’ (side one) and ‘…Ser Dig’(side two) aren’t really apparent, but on the former, a minimalist drone swells to a filler drone that continues to expand in density over time.

‘…Ser Dig’ occupies a lower mid-range register and subtly wavers through slow oscillations. Not a lot happens, but this is a work that demands a certain level of focus – or otherwise, no attention whatsoever, by which I mean that close listening will reveal minute details, and that intent, alert state of scrutinising the sound brings with it a different state of mind, a certain clarity. Contrastingly, allowing oneself to become one with the drone is a deeply relaxing experience: headphones, dark room and candle, a smoky scotch all contrive to a certain slow fade in and out of the continuum, which is different altogether. It encourages you to empty your mind and instead of reflecting on any sense of trajectory, simply immersing oneself in the slow, subtle ripples of sound that reveal themselves over time. No drone is ever just a drone: there is always movement, shapes, undulations, ripples, waves. They are all present in this subtly-shifting, rippling dronescape that evolves over the course of its forty-minute duration. And the details are nice, but nicer still is just to sit back and let it play out, because life is stressful and demanding enough and sometimes, details simply don’t matter. With this, it’s time to go with the flow.

AA

DRET007 tape inlay card

Southern Lord – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Twenty years is a long time. But that’s how long it’s been since Iceburn last graced us with new material. The shifting collective, primarily operative between 1990 and 2001 reconvened in 2007, with this current lineup again at the core.

As the band’s bio summarises, ‘The band’s initial output slowly evolved from hardcore and metal to free improvisation and noise. The 10 year arc saw the band following their own path and becoming more and more obscure as they got deeper into unknown musical worlds. By 2000 the cycle seemed complete and Iceburn did their final tour in Europe 2001. In 2007 this early core crew reunited to play a local anniversary show focused on the earliest material. Every few years since they would get together for another ‘reunion’ until that word became more of a joke, it was clear the band was back, getting together every week, and working on new material.’

And here it is: two truly megalithic tracks, each spanning the best part of twenty minutes, and packing them densely with some hard-hitting, churning, trudging, sludgy riffs.

This is some heavy, doomy, din: the riffs are Sabbath as filtered via Melvins, and let’s face it – Sabbath may have invented heavy metal, but it was Melvins who reinvented it with that gnarly, stoner twist and all the sludge.

It’s about halfway through the eighteen-minute ‘Healing the Ouroburous’ that things take a bit of a crazy turn. The lead riffing steps up to next-level flamboyant and I’m starting to think ‘this is maybe a bit much’. It’s not just that it’s technical, it’s just a bit fretwanky, even a bit Thin Lizzy, like ‘Whisky in the Jar’ jammed for fifteen minutes at a gig with three local support bands for a minor-league headliner – but then they pull it back and we’re returned to slow, lumbering territory. If there’s a brief burst where it sounds a bit Alice In Chains, it’s forgivable, because within the obvious genre framework, Iceburn bring in so much to expand the limits of convention, and it’s refreshing, especially from a band with so much history. It would have been so easy for them to just turn out a brace of droning riff beasts where not a lot happens, and no doubt they would have been lauded for their return to form and their place in the underground canon, but… well bollocks to that. Then there are the vocal – shifting between a low growl and some quite melodic moments, but all kept low in the mix.

‘Dahlia Rides the Firebird’ is another absolute bloody behemoth, a collision of Earth and Melvins, and a real slow-burner that takes suspense to a point near the limit. It takes three minutes before it even begins to take form, and then lumbers like some giant Cretaceous riff-lizard – one with big, swinging riff knackers at that. Yes, this has some swagger, and it builds, and it builds… The monster crunching riff that crashes in to punch hard in the last five minutes more than justifies the wait. When it lands, it’s absolutely fucking colossal.

Asclepius is a statement, and one which informs us that Iceburn are forward-facing and aren’t looking to recreate the past or retread old ground just to please people. And that in itself should please enough people, because this is so, so solid.

AAA

a1401051411_10

24 April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The title is pretty much a summary of this release: a collection – or compilation – of works by dark ambient act In The Absence Of Words. It’s the first of two volumes, and draws on their seventeen previous releases (discounting the 2020 ‘reworked’ version of III (originally 2017).

There are a lot of numerals to assimilate here – which is a point of interest given that the man behind In The Absence Of Words is a copywriter by day, a person who spends the majority of their time immersed in the formation of words in order to convey specific information. The craving for some time away from words is one I can personally relate to, and is one of the reasons for my pursuit of a musical project centred around noise and abstraction. We all need a break from the dayjob, and for a writer, that headspace comes not from time out of the office in the gym, but from something not only devoid of words, but which blanks out words completely, and covers over the internal monologue and that inner voice, whatever it’s saying, to wash away and cleanse the mind of words, if only for a short while.

A Collection I may assemble six compositions from a vast and swiftly-built catalogue, but it’s explicitly not a ‘best of’ intended to shift units of back-catalogue: instead, it’s a carefully-curated project where the pieces have been, as the liner notes explain, ‘carefully selected to complement each other and to create a single immersive listening experience. Each track was originally released individually on Bandcamp between 2017 and 2019 and each has been remastered and assembled specifically for this compilation.

As such, it’s less about singling out individual pieces and immersing oneself in the holistic experience, allowing oneself to simply take the journey and observe the landscape, absorbing the sights, sounds, and scents. That said, there are clear distinctions between the tracks, and these very much signpost the route from beginning to end.

As such, some notes on the passage seem appropriate, in the same way one may jot down observations from any other journey, and ‘The Meeting Point’ undulates slowly, and I’m reminded of the tranquil ripples of Prurient when they’re not devastating the ambience with a blitzkrieg of white noise and distorted vocals.

The seventeen-and-a-half minute ‘Suspension of Belief’, originally featured on debut I back in 2017 isn’t discernibly different, but swells and groans out a textural rinse that rumbles and rolls on and on, its churning grind becoming quite uncomfortable over time.

Much of the album is soft, cloud-like, with sonorous, billowing drones changing shape and form often but subtly over time, and while the second half of the album feels less varied in terms of both texture and tone, the way the individual pieces melt into one another to create a extended sonic space in which it’s possible to relax and empty your mind is credit to the artist for his selection and sequencing of the material to render such an experience.

AA

A Collection I

Nadja reveal another track "Starres" from their forthcoming album Luminous Rot, which shall be released on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August. Luminous Rot pre-orders are live from today, and info can be found on the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe store and via Bandcamp.

About the track and video Nadja comments, "Starres is about both inner- and outerspace, a conflation of the internal neural-network of the human brain with the external cosmos, and how the act of observation might alter those, both from the viewpoint of the observer and the one observed. The video attempts to replicate something of that feeling of cognitive dissonance in the observer, taking a mundane image of houses and warping them, both through reflective filming and digital effects."

Watch the video here:

AA

Nadja 2

(image by by Janina Gallert)

False Industries False – 23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

None of us was ready for this. Separation, detachment, deaths, a relentless media frenzy… New normal? We haven’t had a moment to process, not really: it’s been one thing after another, and any time for reflection has simply slammed home another level of horror as the realisation of the harshest realities not only of the present, but the possible future hit us. There are people and places we may never see again, but existing in the moment has afforded little time to really assimilate this prospect. ‘All art made in this period has been impacted by the shifts 2020 brought on the world, so why deny it?’ asks Etziony, and it’s a fair question: even art not specifically or directly influenced by the events of the last year will have been affected in some way, and the psychological impact of a year of global lockdown, apart from friends and relatives will likely take significantly longer to truly unravel.

How adjusted do you feel to talk to people or otherwise act normally in proximity, in your workplace, in public, general? How many of us have become desocialised, socially awkward, uncomfortable around others? How many with social anxiety have

And so it was that, as the blurb details, ‘Yair Etziony wrote Further Reduction after returning from Israel to his home of Berlin in September last year. In his own words, something in him “snapped” as he realized that many of the places he knew and loved had simply stopped existing.’

It begins with expansive, resonant ambience, and continues with more of the same: Further Reduction is an album that’s constructed around rhythmic pulsations and slow ebbs and flows. Take, for example, ‘Caves of Steel’, which is a definite ambient work, but one which points towards quite definite structures and sounds of a solidly percussive nature.

The first track, ‘Reploicaset’, transitions from sparse ad echoic to a full, building, slow-moving swell of sound. It maybe evocative of scenes of life beneath the oceans, as jellyfish pulse through deep waters There are a passages or extended tranquillity, but also of unrest.

Short vocal samples echo through the waves om both ‘Polar Vortex’ and ‘Recreate and Update’, and these moments disrupt the long, slow droning eeriness of the album as a whole – although this is very much a positive, adding texture and new layers of the uncanny as slow-shifting tones turn and reverberate. By ‘Service Recovery’, everything has been reduced to a scratching, hovering drone that hovers and hums, and the final stages of the album are ominous, unsettling, and taper down too a slow conclusion, whereby we’re left with nothing but silence to reflect upon, just like those dark night when the conversation stops and we find ourselves alone in the world, wondering precisely how we fit, who – if anyone – cares, and what will be next.

AA

False032_front

Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums you can judge by its cover – and title. Golden Threads From Riven Rot continues to trace the same themes of death and decay as its Inverted Grim Mill predecessor, The Sea To Which The Body Is Drawn.

The liner notes promise Wreaths’ ‘signature swells of fragile strings [which] drift and fluctuate throughout, laying down a thick atmosphere that draws the listener in. While there’s a swamp of sadness to be sinking in, there’s also a hopeful tone.’

The hope isn’t always immediately apparent, and it’s the bleakness of eternity stretching out with nothing to grasp hold of that dominates the album’s eight pieces, the majority of which extend beyond the six-minute mark, giving them room to fully immerse and envelop the listener. The compositions are rich in texture, and the long, slow, droning swells of sound – not notes, not chords, just dense, yet at the same time wispy and intangible, like layers of smoke or fog hanging in the air. The grand sonic vista of ‘The Throes of Them’ is defined by a slowly pulsating rhythmic chime, while ‘That’s How Buildings Burn Down’ grows deeper, darker, denser as it progresses, a rumbling lower-end drone sonorous and heavy beneath the creeping stealth of the top layer, a thin, stratospheric drone that twinkles and shimmers.

The theme of decay dominates the bleakly suffocating smog of ‘Words Come to Rot in the Throat’, the title conjuring the sensation of all the thoughts we fail to articulate as the rise and catch in our throats and remain unuttered, for fear, for shame, for cowardice. Where do those words go? Sometimes, we swallow them back down, but something remains lodged and decaying as those recollections return and manifest as angst and self-loathing. Here, the sounds quiver tremulously as they linger, lost, directionless in the darkness.

Originally self released as a digital album, this CD reissue of Golden Threads From Riven Rot includes the lengthy final ‘lost’ track, ‘A Cloak For Rotting In’. Where it’s been and for how long is unclear, but it’s a sixteen-minute expanse of cold sonic desert. Strings scrape and whine as they suffer in quiet solitude and a sepulchral chill descends. It’s a gloomy, dolorous affair, steeped in sadness.

After Golden Threads From Riven Rot has drifted into nothingness, it leaves you cold, shaken, somehow empty and adrift. The prospect of moving feels beyond attainment, and there is nothing you want to do or listen to afterwards, but sit and bask in the faded silence.

AA

cover

Christopher Nosnibor

Originally released in 1999, Music from the Empty Quarter was Photographed by Lightning’s fifth album. The band described it as ‘their Troutmask Replica, their Tago Mago’, forewarning the listener that it’s ‘a monstrous slice of avant jazz, musique concrete Lovecraftian horror and should under no circumstances be listened to while under the influence of ‘substances’, and it’s immediately clear why. Like Trout Mask, it seems to be an album intended to be as difficult and challenging as possible, the sound of four musicians playing four different tunes in different keys and time signatures at the same time.

A strolling bassline stops and starts, runs and halts against a thunking beat. Everything’s up to the max, resulting in a slightly fuzzed-out sound, murky with the edges frayed by distortion. And over all of it, horns honk and parp, weaving weird patterns. This is the first of the four parts of ‘Al Azif’, scattered at strategic points across the album, with the same nagging bass motif recurring on each, as if in some attempt to give some sense of structure or cogency to the deranged, sprawling mass of weirdy noise. While three of the four parts are comparatively short, ‘Al Azif 4’ is a colossal twenty-one minutes in duration, but there’s a hell of a lot to wade through before – namely the whole of disc one.

‘Reptiles Invent The Amniotic Egg’ is a slow-trudging grind, somewhere between Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin’s GOD, and SWANS, and ‘Foehn’ occupies similarly dark, weighty territory. Meanwhile, ‘Pop Song’ stands out as the most accessible track here, a snappy number with an actual semblance of a tune that’s reminiscent of early Public Image – but after a minute and a bit, they’re done, and back to making the most chaotic racket going with the frenzied discord of ‘The Assembly of Membranes’, and taking things up a notch on ‘Timing of Cellularisation’ which sounds like The Fall playing next door to Merzbow, and they’ve both left the door open and you’re standing in the corridor between the two.

By the time you’ve been battered by the murky wasteland that is the noodling delirium of ‘Mosses Invade the land’, with its impenetrable vocals, and the unexpectedly folksy lo-fi indie of Sugar Fist – part Silver Jews, part Syd Barrett, you arrive dizzied and dazed at ‘Al Azif 3’ with a strange sense of déjà-vu, before disc two arrives with more of the same – literally. That sensation of being on an endlessly recurring loop is a headfuck almost on a par with Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric, but perhaps more realistically an approximation of The Fall’s ‘Bremen Nacht’ repetitions on The Frenz Experiment and accompanying 7”.

The demented, snarling vocals, that gibber and gnash away into the drifting fade of horns is most unsettling as disc two gets dubby and deranged on the fourth instalment, and after the brief interlude that is ‘Hypoxia’, the fifteen-minute title track is a yawning, droning swirl of somnambulance, a ritualistic swell and groan with laser rockets arcing over its bubbling, swampy expanse.

This is fucking heavy stuff: not heavy in the metal sense, but in the sense that’s it’s relentlessly oppressive and lasts an eternity. It’s absolutely bloody great, but it’s also probably the soundtrack to life in purgatory. You have been warned.

AA

a1100566683_10

Hallow Ground – HG2101 – 12th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Norman Westberg, of Swans legend, has a long association with the cranking out of heavy noise. For over three decades, his style was a defining feature of one of the most singular bands, and a rare entity, namely a guitarist who was more than happy to bludgeon away at the same two or three chords for anything up to a quarter of an hour. I would even venture so far as to say that Westberg is a truly unique guitarist, and his appreciation and understanding of space is unparalleled – a player who isn’t only comfortable, but whose signature is a seemingly infinite pause between chords.

In more recent years, Westberg’s output has shifted towards a less abrasive angle, with a succession of solo releases from 2016 onwards exploring overtly ambient territory, through MRI¸ The All Most Quiet, (both 2016) and After Vacation (2019).

First Man in the Moon sees Westberg connect with double bass player Jacek Mazurkiewicz, who supported Swans on tour in Europe in 2014 under the moniker of his solo project 3FoNIA,.The result of their collaboration, recorded during some downtime ahead of Michael Gira’s two Warsaw shows toward the end of 2019, is five improvised tracks of richly resonant evocation. The pitch promises a work ‘beyond the boundaries of atmospheric drone, abstract jazz and experimental music [which] blurs the lines between the acoustic and the electronic.’

It’s all a blur: supple washes of sound painted in broad strokes provide the cloud-like ambient backdrop to clatters and creaks, and the occasional bleep and whirr. It’s very much about the contrast: Mazurkiewicz’s playing is versatile, with his double bass work ranging from deep, brooding sounds that are very much of the instrument, to sonorous booms, to the sound of a tree groaning and about to topple.

How deep do you delve into a work so overly ambient and abstract? At what point does dissection become futile? First Man in the Moon is an album that warrants space, and reflection, to breathe and to simply run its course – an album to bask in, rather than to pick apart. It creates a supple, evolving atmosphere of soft drone and a soporific soundscape in which to cut loose.

A hesitant bass emerges from the misty contrails of ‘That was Then’, and it’s ‘Falsely Accused’ is a slow, tidal throb that ebbs and flows… and not a lot else. First Man in the Moon is an album that drifts on, remaining in the background: it does not demand attention of focus. Attention and focus bring different rewards, but there is a lot to be said for simply sitting back, dimming the lights and sipping a whisky while the sounds of this subtle, nuanced work immerse you.

As collaborations go, Westberg and Mazurkiewicz make for a magnificent pairing, creating an album that shows a touching musical intuition: everything about First Man in the Moon simply flows, effortlessly, naturally, and creates a space in space – that is to say, a mental space in which to empty oneself. It’s rare, and it’s special.

AA

HG2101_front