Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Miasmah Recordings – MIALP037 – 25th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Svarte Greiner is in fact Erik K Skodvin. But identity is mutable, and on Moss Garden, Skodvin explores the mutable identity of sound in space. And by space, I mean both in terms of the spatial creations of soundscapes, and outer space: through the former, Moss Garden evokes the latter.

The album contains two side-long tracks. ‘The Marble’ creates a slow-moving sonic expanse of drifting ambience. Crackles of static create minor interference in the smooth surface which extends over light years of distance. It’s a journey of infinitesimally gradual transition and glacial, galactic expansion. Everything moves in suspension, slowly, moving in its own dense molecular soup.

‘Garden’ begins with a crescendo and works backwards, tapering off into near-silence before beginning to grow at vegetable pace. There’s no specific purpose to this elliptical reference to Andrew Marvell, but listening to musical explorations so overtly background affords the mind space to wander, and it’s always a source of amazement what thoughts and recollections venture to the fore when given the room to surface at will. Sitting back in a dimly-lit room with a large measure of something strong, this is the perfect sonic immersive to lift the listener out of the humdrum and into another dimension.

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Svarte Greiner – Moss Garden

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13th October 2017

James Wells

This the first CD released by drøne, a collaborative project featuring the pioneering Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the 80s comedian also known as The Rochdale Cowboy). The accompanying text informs us that ‘Mappa Mundi traces and describes audio surrounding and occupying the planet earth’. In fact, the album comes with one hell of a write-up, which quoting at length is instructive:

Workers toil in smithies, call signs and chants-at-prayer reveal attempts to order the chaos, which always remains one step ahead. Post-lapsarian for sure, but smoke signals and drums have morphed into the ‘bing bong’ of the attention-grabbing, mind-polluting PA system. The coded simplicity of the whistle (“Start!”) has evolved into a more deliberate attempt to control rather than inform by explicit, structured language. Announcements have become commands; signs bark orders. Thus ‘no’ becomes a powerful rejection, rather than merely a preference; and no-ers are more easily to spot… “You’re going the wrong way”! (To which the only sensitive and mature response is: “Good!”)

Call signs, IDs, audio sigils and signatures all combine to describe a polluted, confusing atmosphere which threatens to leave us powerless and bewildered. "Decipher the sounds and you win the game! First prize is, guess what? You get to take the audio poison! Congratulations! You’ve lost!”.

As for the actuality, there’s perhaps something of a disparity. Because ultimately, not a lot happens on Mappa Mundi. It crackles and fizzes, clicks and pops, humming and droning along the way. But it’s largely quiet, unobtrusive,

The album’s five movements, with a total running time of thirty-five minutes, are mastered as a single continuous track, at least on the advance digital. On the one hand, it’s frustrating, but Mappa Mundi is an album which is best experienced in a single sitting, uninterrupted. And it is an experience, albeit an uncomfortable one.

Drøne - Mappa Mundi

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

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Namke Communications – One Year Two Days

Christopher Nosnibor

The soundcheck in progress while I’m ordering my first pint suggests we’re in for a loud night. Well, the Facebook event page did give fair warning. It’s a good job I’ve brought earplugs: the guy behind the bar points out that he’s already wearing his.

It’s 6:40pm on a Sunday evening in August. Outside, it’s still warm and the sun is out. Inside, it’s seriously dark, even with the curtains open and daylight filtering in. The THING – whose ‘Nightmares for Children’ streamed exclusively on Aural Aggravation back in April, begin their set with a dolorous bell chime and ominous, droning synths. The fear notes give way to a massage deluge of gut-grinding sludge: the guitar sounds like a bass, the bass sounds the bowels of Beelzebub after a phal. As they thunder through a continuous half-hour set, I’m reminded of Sleep, but the samples and synths which emerge through the murk gives an industrial edge to the doomy dronescape which reaches its climax by building through a single chord and floor to being battered at increasing speed before breaking into a tsunami of sludge.

The THING

The THING

Rotting Monarchs win band name of the night, no question. But starting fifteen minutes late in a tightly-packed schedule is not so cool, and they seem a bit disorganised and lacking in finesse. Still, their shouty, grindy punky racket brought together bits of NOFX with hints of Bomb Disneyland, which is no bad thing.

The place is suddenly a lot busier: Shrieking Violet have brought their mates. And they’re young. Many of them have short skirts and shiny new DMs. I’m here in my cracked £20 steel-toed Chelsea boots and beer-stained jacket. I’m not expecting much. Yes, they’re pure 80s, as if the singer’s hair and shirt didn’t give it away. The first track has hints of early Ultravox. But equally as the set progresses, I’m reminded of This Et Al minus the falsetto. They benefit from some hooky tunes propelled by some phenomenal, powerhouse percussion. ‘Avalanche’ is built around a steely, cyclical riff worthy of Killing Joke, and overall, it’s a strong set.

Shrieking Violet

Shrieking Violet

They may be playing as a three-piece sans bassist Dani, but SEEP AWAY still manage to bring eye-popping intensity and ear-shredding volume to proceedings. The eight-string guitar ensures the sound’s got density, and when paired with Dom Smith’s fierce drumming – his second set of the night having already pounded through The THING’s set – there’s plenty of sonic backdrop for Jay to do his manic thing. He’s a hell of a showman: that he’s wild and unpredictable and relentlessly in the crowd’s faces means you can’t take your eye off him for a second.

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SEEP AWAY

My opinions on novelty bands are no secret, and in the main, I think they suck. Petrol Hoers are a novelty bad so perverse, so fucked-up and plain wrong, that they’re an exception. Two blokes – two fat blokes – one wearing dungarees with no shirt, but a comedy horse’s head, the other wearing red Y-fronts, a fine mesh vest and a Mexican wrestling mask, stomp around hollering over backing tracks of blistering, uptempo industrial-strength bangin’ techno. In paper, it sounds both weird and shit in equal measure, but the audacity of these guys is as sheer as the pants guy’s top. The half dozen people who last the duration of their set absolutely fucking love it.

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Petrol Hoers

Little Death Machine take the stage ten minutes after their set was supposed to finish. Are they worth the wait? Absolutely. The London trio play in near-darkness, adding to the taut atmosphere which emanates from their technically precise and detailed compositions. On account of being scribbled in the dark (and not on account of the pints consumed over the course of the evening), my notes are a shade difficult to decipher, but in the moment I was taken by their rock / post-rock / hop-hop / soul rock hybrid. I also note by way of reference points Placebo, Oceansize, Nine Inch Nails, TesseracT, and some stuff I can’t make out from the scrawl.

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Little Death Machine

Did I really write ‘soul rock’? Yes, it appears so, and if that reads like an insult or criticism, it’s not: the moods that are deeply entwined within the songs, which are complex and progressive in their structures, are played with a sincerity and soulfulness that you feel. And that’s something no amount of technical ability or compositional dexterity can fake. It’s emotive, textured and resonant. And the perfect finish to an intense and varied night of live music.

Hominid Sounds – 30th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Cargill’s project still has one of the best names around: it’s not only an example of punning genius, but also one of those band names which sets expectations as to what you’re going to get musically. I say musically, but that’s very much a matter of perspective. SATFD don’t make music in the conventional sense, and Molar Wrench is as sonically challenging as any of the previous releases SATFD have put out. On this outing, they’re joined by Dutch/British free jazz unit Dead Neanderthals, to form what they describe as ‘the ultimate tag team of the murky European underground’.

Given that the two acts featured on a split release last year, this collaboration seems like a logical progression. It certainly marks a departure for Sly, in that the trademark subterranean grind of endless, dark drones and unsettling atmospherics is matched with and at times consumed by the maddest jazz shit going.

The album contains just four tracks, but packs in a hell of a lot of racket. It all kicks off with a frenetic, a wild, free jazz cacophony, a melange of clamorous, ultra-hyped parping horns, sonorous lowed drone and is dominated by truly frenzied, cacophonous bent. Circuits fizz and hum while the percussion thrashes and crashes arrhythmically, throwing the listener around with reckless abandon a rollercoaster of tempestuous sonic mania.

There are two ‘Muck Man’ tracks and the first is ten minutes of slow, throbbing churn made up primarily of low and mid-range sludge, the drums holding a ragged but hard rhythm amidst a maelstrom of thick, dirty, pulsating noise. It’s almost a riff, but more a succession of waves in a rhythmically surging sonic tide, a with the density of liquid mud. Immersive would be one word.

‘Muck Man Part 2’ is altogether more low-key, a dark, atmospheric piece that manifests as a prehistoric sulphur swamp in sonic form. Slowly, the murky drift builds to a screaming tempest of noise; the brass develops from a low drone to a shrill shriek of pain and the drumming transitions from a sedate trudge to an explosive riot of noise, abrasive blasts of snarling electronica and whatever the fuck else bursting in waves of sonic shock.

The title track closes off the album, and it’s an eleven-minute trudge that calls to mind the claustrophobic brutality of Swans’ ‘Young God’ EP. The plodding percussion provides a doomy and tense prickling spine to the oppressive grind that lumbers on for what feels like a skull-crushing eternity.

There is a definite structure to Molar Wrench, in that it starts off wild and winds down to a grinding crawl, but it by no means feels like the energy displayed at the outset dissipates as the album progresses. It’s more a case that having exhausted the listener with frenetic kinetics and gone all-out on the attack at the front end, the album seeks to bludgeon the listener into submission in the later stages. And highly effective it is, too.

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Consouling Sounds – 23rd June 2017

IIVII – pronounced ‘ivy’ as it so happens – is the musical vehicle for visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham. It’s actually quite fitting to the creeping ambience and gradually-expanding soundscapes which develop almost imperceptibly on Invasion. The bio bigs it up as being his ‘enigmatic inter-galactic solo project’, which focuses on ‘sonically engulfing and moody soundscapes, layered with a science-fiction edge.’

Graham has quite a resume: having worked as a designer and director, he has also collaborated with a variety of bands including Mastodon, Neurosis, Jesu, Shrinebuilder, ISIS and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Invasion is pitched as a work which ‘traverses genre and explores elements of drone, classical, ambient, electronica, and vaporwave’, and it’s very much an album of tonal variety and texture, not to mention compositional and stylistic range – to the extent that sometimes one might wonder if the playlist has moved onto something else entirely.

Invasion is less a collection of individual pieces but a single set which forms an ever0shifting whole; from the lonely piano which echoes across the expansive atmospherics of ‘We Came Here from a Dying World’ through the creeping bassline and fear notes which hang hauntingly on ‘Unclouded by Conscience’, with its distant, rolling drum and post-rock intimations, and through the more overtly beat-driven.

There are extended minimalist moments, like the slow-pule hum which introduces ‘Hidden Inside’ to stark and chilling effect; the glitchy bass and glacial overtones do little to soften the icy bleakness of the funeral bells and amorphous sonic drifts which carry a chilly edge over the occasional bursts of subsonic thunder. Melodic arabesques rise from eddying pools of resonant bass hums and twirling contrails.

The tribal beats and throbbing synthesized bass, draped with icy synth notes, which define the dynamic drive of ‘No More Enemies’ call to mind Movement era New Order: it’s dark, detached, otherworldly, and corresponds with the album’s artwork, which depicts an invading species of alien origin (also completed by Graham, who, poignantly, served as Soundgarden’s art director at the time of the press release).

Nuanced has become one of those words, but there’s a rich detail and infinite texture to be found on Invasion that demands its application. This is an articulate, considered and meticulously-realised work which operates on multiple levels.

 

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Svart Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Depending on your perspective, drone metal masters Gravetemple are either a(nother) Sunn O))) offshoot, or a supergroup. Comprising Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley and Attila Csihar, the trio have many interconnecting threads, and s Gravetemple, they create something quite different – and arguably more overtly ‘metal’ than any of their other projects.

According to the press release, ‘on Impassable Fears, Gravetemple have refined and diversified their nuanced form of all-consuming, abstract death metal inspired heaviness. The essence of their other-worldly vocal exhortations, the maelstrom of frenetic beats and heavy guitar sounds are ever-present, as is the sheer power of their delivery. Yet Impassable Fears is far from unrelenting, there’s shifting dynamics, revealing an abundance of unexplored sonic detail, across all intersections, deftly balancing minimalist and maximalist sounds with finesse.’

It’s true: there is considerable range in texture and tone, and Impassable Fears is not an hour-long solid wall of excruciating noise. But there is a lot of excruciating noise and punishing volume, and the sonic density of the songs as they’re recorded is optimal for the most part.

Opener ‘Szarka’ begins by melding a strolling, subterranean bassline and blustering beat to a shattering guitar which very quickly goes sludgy, and from thereon rapidly descends into guttural brutality. Shrieking demons flee in terror at the depth of the darkness conjured by the thick, blacker than black guitar noise. Crackling distortion and scraping feedback grate against a rumbling percussive attack on the ten-minute ‘Elavúlt Földbolygó (which translates as ‘World out of Date’). A twisted mess of psychedelic metal dragged from the bowels of the earth, it builds relentlessly, growing ever louder, ever more frantic, and ever more dense over the duration.

The experimental and atmospheric ‘Domino’ offers respite, exploring a throbbing electronic ambient vein to disorientating and unsettling effect, and segues into ‘Áthatolhatatlan Félelmek’, which pulls back on the full-on aural attack, at least during the first minute or so. The track instead proffers forth a sparser, but ultimately more sinister, more subtly atmospheric vision of hell. But eventually, the rolling thunder breaks out, demonic drumming drives a searing scourge of molten guitars and a droning bass that’s so low and so thick it realigns every last inch of the intestinal tract – and then continues to twist malevolent for what feels like a most uncomfortable eternity.

The tranquility of the haunting drift that is ‘Az Örök Végtelen Üresség,’ which closes the album is welcome, but there are darker undercurrents which run through. The final notes are crashing chimes which echo into silence, leaving more of a hanging question mark rather than a resolution or serving the listener with a sense of closure and relief.

 

Gravetemple artwork (by Denis Forkas Kostromitin