Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Editions Mego/Cave12  – 8th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a heavy air of finality about this release, encapsulated simply and plainly and unemotively in the title. Mika Vainio, best known as one half of Pan Sonic, produced a quite remarkable body of work under various guises and through numerous noteworthy collaborations, before his death, age 53, in April 2017. Last Live is a document of his final live performance, recorded on 2 February 2017 at Cave12, in Geneva. This is by no means a cash-in release or some poor-taste milking of the vaults.

As the liner notes recount, ‘we needed time to listen to this archive again, which we did in situ in June 2020 with Cindy Van Acker. After this listening, we felt invested in having to make this archive public.’ And instead of just banging it out, Editions Mego invested in making it fit the format, with Carl Michael von Hausswolff to do the mixing, and the recording was organized in 4 movements, with Stephen O’Malley involved in the pre-edit process and the legendary. Denis Blackham doing the mastering. This was, of course, necessary, in order to fit the double-LP format, and each segment spans between ten and nineteen minutes to cover the full hour-long set, which begins as a low, oscillating hum.

The drone goes on through the duration of ‘Movement 1’: indeed, it’s almost torturous after a mere five minutes, and we’re reminded early on that Vainio’s reputation was not based on his commercial appeal. Eventually, the hum halts and is replaced by a low-level throbbing, and a softer tone, before plunging into a drone of ow-level murk that one feels more than hears.

There are breaks in the ever-shifting sonic blanket pitched forth by Vainio, and the near-silent spells don’t correspond with the lulls between tracks as you might expect – but then, on the CD, the tracks beleed together anyway, giving a true sense of the set as a continuous piece, and a performance that explores tonality and texture, as well as frequency and dynamics.

There’s no question that this performance was loud: circuits creak, wail, and scream in a bulldozering barrage of grinding earthworking sound, a nuclear wind in the middle of a construction site drilling through the mantle to the earth’s core. But Vainio also ventures effortlessly into quieter, more tranquil bywaters, as well as bringing it down into semi-ambient territory.

At times, it hurts. The density is just bewildering, and twelve minutes into ‘Movement 2’ when everything starts to overload, it’s tempting just to lie down and stare at the ceiling muttering ‘holy fuck.’ When the sound really starts to crescendo, it’s a brutal, speaker shredding wall of noise, and it’s dark, and utterly obliterative. It’s also absolutely fucking punishing. So much so, any kind of analysis or critique feels almost futile.

Even without the context of death and finality, while penning this review in a place where there has been next to no live music in ten months, listening to Last Live is an intense and moving experience. It serves as a reminder of just how physical and how transportative live music can be, how songs may be important but sometimes, all you need is a sea of sound which will carry you away. There is no destination here, just an immense flow of sonic waves. And this is all you need.

It may well have been an unintentional sign-off, but as a last, and lasting, live statement turning the light off on an illustrious career, this is an appropriate curtain close.

Gizeh Records – GZH101 – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Gizeh label founder Richard Knox already has a quite remarkable resume of musical projects, often running simultaneously or overlapping. With Shield Patterns currently quiet and A-Sun Amissa standing as his primary collective vehicle, Knox’s contributions to collaborative works over recent years have been numerous, but to fill a gap – or more likely scratch another itch – he’s stepped into the (half) light with a new solo project, Of Thread & Mist. A fair summary is that the project sounds exactly as the name suggests, and one might say representative of the Gizeh ‘house’ style’ – evocative, haunting, juxtapositional, but also evasive, intangible, ephemeral.

Static Hymns contains two longform tracks: the first, ‘Grace and Truth Perish’ has a running time of eighteen and a half minutes, while ‘A Face Full of Drunken Ticks’ is a colossally sprawling thirty-two-minute epic.

The formulation of the album centres around music ‘composed by Knox then deconstructed and manipulated via hand-made tape loops, beaten-up 4-Tracks and modified cassette players’. There’s very much a sense of artistry around the manipulation of the material, an almost avant-garde collaging, repurposing, reconfiguration, destroying – or at least disfiguring – in order to build anew.

There is something old, faded, slightly damaged about the warped, wavering tape drones that seep tentatively from the speakers to begin with, creating a sense of unease, a certain degree of disorientation, a feeling that something isn’t quite right about the way the different layers of sound rub against one another without quite connecting. It’s a slow, trickling turn as gradients of sweeping waves of sound, broad in spectra and subtly textured like pale watercolours spreading into one another, and the edges blur into indistinction.

This type of cinematic, atmospheric ambient drone is very much Knox’s signature, and he’s long demonstrated a knack for slowly shifting from light to shade and back through almost granular gradation, but where Static Hymns stands out is its almost collage-like approach in places. The different elements overlap, and not always comfortably – and this is very much in their favour in the way in which they challenge the recipient: this is no simple drone-over-and-out, but an album that proffers a sensory challenge, and as such, demands more attention than so many exercises in background drift that occupy the ambient sphere.

Toward the end, the sound again begins to waver, waxing and waning, tapering and yawning, stretching and fading in and out unpredictably, as if slowly degenerating, degrading. There are a number of abrupt false endings as the sound fragments into evermore brief flickers. It stutters, it yawns, and finally, it is done – gone, ended.

But when the sound ends, the reflection begins. Static Hymns is an album that invites reflection in the silence which follows the final notes.

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Ojud Records – 1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be January 1st, but 2021 already feels very much – as expected – like a continuation of 2020. As a friend pointed out to me only this morning, in summarising the fact that the pandemic position remained unchanged and now we had the added shit bonus of having fully left the EU, ‘shit never sleeps’. Seeing so many post on social media about being glad to see the back of 2020 was somewhat depressing: I get the sentiment, and very much am on board with the significance and psychology of book-ending a period of time with the striking of midnight marking the start of a new calendar, but really, what changes? This year or ever?

One positive of this continuity is that Dave Procter is kicking off the new year where he left off the old one, namely by making and releasing more noise, and its timing is noteworthy, as a common theme within Procter’s work is some form of commemoration or ritual, with events like midsummer drone walks

This time, it’s with an alliteratively-titled work with occasional collaborator Claus Poulsen, with whom he plays one concert and makes one release every year. Parallel Perspectives is very much from the dronier end of his working spectrum, and follows Solaris (2019) and Minimum / Maximum (2018) in a continuum stretching back to 2015 and the release of his first work with Poulsen, PP. The release of Parallel Perspectives being a day late for 2020, despite having been recorded almost a year ago on 20th January 2020 also seems somehow, if accidentally appropriate, and something that won’t be lost on the artists, not least of all with Procter having relocated to Sweden ahead of the finalisation of Brexit. And works like Parallel Perspectives illustrate why: when creativity is so reliant on collaboration, free movement is essential, and this is a perfect advertisement for everything the un-UK has just thrown away in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

Not that there is anything remotely political about the album itself: this is purely a coming together of musical minds, and a celebration of their commonalities and differences – and it’s that mutual understanding, paired with an awareness of the power of contrast that make this.

As the liner notes detail, Parallel Perspectives was recorded in Copenhagen. The single track on the album is an extension of Procter’s Fibonacci Drone Organ minimalistic project, but with Poulsen adding overdubs. With his different perspective, he quickly forgets the minimalistic nature of the piece and details it with waves of half speed vinyl and samples.

An elongated organ drone hums, hovering and wavering gently in semi-stasis. Ruptures and incidentals abound, from seemingly random discordant cascades of sound and piano interjections to slow-whispering thermal winds and desolately chill nuclear gusts, and I’s remarkable just how much those details prove to dramatically colour the mood. Perhaps it’s the – for a better term – blankness of the flat organ drone that is as much key here, in that as of and in itself, it has no particular ‘mood’; it’s a neutral sound, imbued with precisely nothing. It’s only when rubbing against or along with another sound that it slides upwards or downwards, into light or darkness. There is no shortage of either over the course of the album’s fifty-three minutes, but there are many protracted passages which explore the realms of the ominous and eerie, the uncomfortable and the suspenseful, as fear chords creep like drifting mist in a dark city alley.

At times, it chimes, and at others, it grates. Sometimes it rings, and at others it drifts. At times, it swells, at others it tapers to nearly nothing. Its pace is barely perceptible, a continuously creeping shift, not so much a slow-burn as a smoulder of smoke tricking from a peat burner, and the layers added by Poulson only serve to protract the transitions, grinding a slow-motion audio that has a cognitive effect as you feel yourself slowing in line with its interminable aural crawl. And for all the moments that sounds like there is a heavy craft looming on the horizon, for all the protracted ponderous spells, there are moments that sound very like the soundtrack to breaking dawn, the soundtrack to redemption on the horizon.

Parallel Perspectives is subtle, but the devil is very much in the detail here.

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Outsider Art / Nim-Brut – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I should probably apologise in advance for this one: my mind has a habit of sprouting off on tangents of word association at the best of times, and with the turmoil that is 2020, a year that’s been – and continues to be – an endless conveyor belt of shit on shit, none of which makes any fucking sense, there are many days and evenings when I am absolutely all over the place. Not literally, of course, since I can’t really go anywhere or see anyone. The weirdy collage sprawl of ‘Carving Another Flute’, the first of three compositions on this split / collaborative effort by BlackCloudSummonerand the hypermanic, uber-prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbings is the perfectly bewildering soundtrack to these brain-foggingly bewildering times. So ‘Carving Another Flute’ just makes me think, inexplicably, of the slang term skinflute. That’s probably the only instrument not in the mix in this chaotic cacophony of an album, that’s got everything else going on, probably including the kitchen sink.

‘Peaches and Crayons’ sounds soft and playful, but is in fact droney and dark, and there’s no easy access point here. But they save their harshest noise for last: ‘Playing All My Black Dice Records At The Same Time’ is a 15-minute assault that is pretty much what the title says, meaning it’s a squalling blitzkrieg of screaming feedback and mid-and low-end that growls and bangs around erratically midst metallic crashes and a fizzing circuitry. It’s utterly excruciating, and probably one of the most intense and sustained blasts of noise I’ve heard in a while, being nothing short of an explosive sonic firework display – but, unchoreographed and untamed, it’s more like a blaze in a firework factory, with everything going off all at once, and it’s incendiary and blinding and overwhelming. Crash-landing somewhere between Merzbow and Whitehouse around the time of Never Forget Death, it’s a fucking nasty mess of abrasive noise – which of course means I love it.

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one: if you do noise, you will love this. If you don’t, it’s your worst nightmare.

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19th October 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The title – Meander – intimates something that not only lacks a clear, direct trajectory, but to my mind at least, something ambling and aimless, like a leisurely walk on a Sunday afternoon in summer, a story narrated at length and via an array of detours and diversions, or a river reaching the later stages of its route towards the sea, when its force has dissipated and it weaves in a sedate series of s-bends through gentle lowlands.

Interlard’s new album may not be defined by a distinct or direct linear trajectory, but it’s anything but sedate, barrelling in with a sonic assault from the outset, with ‘Getting in the Van’ a churning wash of cyclical repetition. Yes, it may well resemble the swashing slosh of a washing machine with additional top-end bleeps, but it also stands as the opening to a passageway that heads downwards into a dark network of tunnels and caverns, an underground maze of the mind and off twisting soundscapes.

It soon becomes apparent that Meander is one of those albums that’s designed specifically to perturb, to disturb, to disrupt, perhaps in any which way it can, and to achieve this, there’s an element of chaos, or the random, as an array of sounds are collaged together, overlapped and overlaid.

‘Jonny Staccatto Does Cold Turkey’ packs all the weirdness into just over three and a half minutes, with woozy bass and discordant twangs and looped vocal samples emerging from snippets of laid-back jazz. Elsewhere, thunderous martial drumming and whirrs like drills buzz through reverberating feedback on the short but intense ‘Power Walking Holding a Claw Hammer’ that batters its way into the space between Test Department and Nurse with Wound. ‘Ugly Socialite’ ploughs a thudding furrow of bleak monotony as it trudges on, and on, and ‘Griefcase’ is dank and murky, oppressive.

Sonically, Meander is big on both texture and tone and moreover, where it stands apart from so many other works that slot into the broad field of experimental / industrial / electronica is in its stylistic range: Interlard explore far more than shades of noise and abrasion. In some respects, this actually renders it more challenging, as reconciling the more mellow passages and out-and-out incongruences within the context of a ‘noise’-oriented set isn’t easy: it goes against the grain of convention, but that’s all the more reason to appreciate the project’s broad artistic vision.

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Soundtracking The Void – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Before the Magic is the debut from The Incidental Crack, a new collaborative work from Front & Follow and Gated Canal Community’s Justin Watson and Rob Spencer, alongside Simon Proffitt, who also performs as Cahn Ingold Prelog and The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor.

Under the seemingly eternal lockdown and difficulties arising from distancing, which continue to loom large over all things creative and musical where collectivism and collaboration are concerned (live performances are another essay altogether, and their absence will continue to leave an immeasurable void for so many and on so many levels), The Incidental Crack is a project that could only exist thanks to the Internet, which saw, ‘a six month period of remotely sharing atmospheric field recordings, samples and random noise, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation.’

The album’s four tracks are significantly differing in length, ranging from a ‘mere’ six-minute snippet to an eighteen-minute exploration of the deepest, darkest tunnels

Why are children’s voices always so unsettling? Especially samples of chirpy, innocent calls and singing, when juxtaposed with murky, dark ambient drones? I suppose it’s not least on account of that unheimlich sensation instilled by those quite specific contrasts of carefree naivete and gut-clenching fear. Individually, these sensations can be processed and compartmentalised, but together, they sit uneasily, tapping into a biological parental instinct that tells us that children should be kept safe from harm, and a doomy sonic fog, with connotations of imminent danger, creeping around the ankles is something of a hard-wired trigger. ‘If I Can Do It’, then, is a thoroughly unsettling collage. The voices fade out, but deep rumbles of thunder persist, a different kind of threat as a storm breaks and it reminds us that there is nothing harsher, more devastating, than nature.

‘Skin’ provides some much-needed levity, overlapping myriad snippets of adverts for skin products by way of an intro before drifting off into soft bubble of drifting mellowness. There’s a spoken-word piece, from what initially appears to be lecture on skin but wanders more into the territory of a reflection on skin more generally.

With murky, clunking percussion and inaudible sampled dialogue running throughout its twelve-minute running time, the dark and impenetrable ‘Set free all the birds from your wife’s aviary’ is another level of unsettling, and it’s difficult to settle or adjust to despite the relentless booming plod that hangs in the background.

The sparse, clanging pulsing noises of the final track are hollow, empty, and even when joined by a slow-swelling tide if amorphous, extraneous noise, feels quite bleak and desolate, and the title, ‘We All Feel Happy Now’ feels grimy ironic. Gasping breaths, the sounds of panic, along with slivers of spoken-word narrative (which in passing includes the album’s title is dense and dolorous, and there is no joy to be found here.

And yet the album as a whole feels positive, if only in terms of its fulfilment of purpose as an experimental album with unsettling connotations, and sometimes, you just need a dark, desolate atmosphere to match the mood.

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Cruel Nature – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Meyer Huthwelker is Helge Meyer and René Huthwelker: these are new names to me, but they seemingly have pedigree as emerging from ‘the hydra-headed experimental noise and ambient scene of Hamburg’. Meyer is also part of the band Ex-Kopf together with Scheich In China, and Huthwelker lately released a great solo tape on Phil Struck’s Stoffe imprint.

As Meyer Huthwelker, the liner notes inform us that ‘they play slow moving electronic music, using various modular and semi-modular synthesizers as weapons of choice.’ These words are chosen as carefully as their weapons, and reflect the way the duo’s sound has a strong attacking element to it, which is showcased perfectly here.

Purdue Generator contains two tracks, corresponding with the two sides of an audiotape, and Cruel Nature are releasing this one in a limited edition of 65 copies – which is an indication of the duo’s appeal given that their tape runs are often considerably smaller. It’s nice, it’s cult, but it’s without doubt respectable.

Purdue Generator contains a lot of heavy drone. Heavy drone. And a lot. Purdue Generator is one of those albums where you find there really isn’t much to say. It’s ambiguous, vague, somewhat formless. It drones on and on… and on. It oscillates and undulates. Slowly, gradually, like so much burrowing and tunnelling and meandering from hither to thither… but nothing happens. Wait, here’s the good bit… Actually, that is the good bit: the lack of change or specific ‘bits’ is entirely the point – it’s an elongated, continuous piece, unpunctuated, defined by protracted sameness that has a cumulative effect. The dronier, the less eventful, the more resonant, the deeper the impact, a little like exposure to radiation, I suppose: the more frequent and prolonged, the more effect on the system.

And so, with the first side, ‘Oxy’, where the elongated pulsations last for aeons, eternities, trickling into the second, ‘Hundo’, there’s a continuity and constant buildup. This being 2020, that buildup is one of tension and resembles less a buildup of excitement than a buildup of plaque. It’s something more to pick at than to actually learn major lessons from.

The low, slow, oscillations hum and thrum at a pace and frequency that settles around the lower thorax, and the reaction is as much physical as mental: Purdue Generator blossoms and blooms with questions over answers as it inspires the listener to step back from the tumult of everything external to meditate in one’s own internal rhythms. The higher, trilling notes that sometimes enter the mix bring levels of discomfort, as do the shifts into lower, grinding throbs. Fading out over a long, deliberate gradation, it doesn’t leave us with very much other than an empty space and room for contemplation.

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Editions Mego – EMEGO289 – Digital: July 24/31 – LP: end August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Who knew that there was a burgeoning experimental music scene in Nairobi? I’ll confess, not me. It transpires that KMRU, known to friends and others as Joseph Kamaru was listed by Resident Advisor as one of “15 East African Artists You Need To Hear” in 2018, and is a regular performer at the Nyegenyege Festival, having also presented live performances at CTM festival and Gamma Festival.

As a low, slow-oscillating, cloud-shifting, minimalist ambient work, Peel is well-executed and seems like a reasonable entry point into KMRU’s work. The field recordings that are integral to its material form are so subtly integrated as to be practically indiscernible, absorbed in the soft swell of sound. This is testament to KMRU’s attention to detail, and in a time that’s an overwhelming blast of soundbites and headlines and music that’s compressed and geared towards MP3 / radio / streaming, Peel explores the full dynamic range.

While the album features six pieces in total, four run past the ten-minute mark, with opener ‘Why Are You Here’ drifting elongatedly past the fifteen minute mark, and the title track rounding off with a monumental twenty-two-minutes or minimalism.

‘Why Are You Here’ begins quietly, a lurching bass slowly rising against clattering metallics, and it’s a hushed, stealthy and vaguely challenging introduction, a combination of melody and disharmony. ‘Solace’ offers none, despite its soft misty formlessness and ‘Well’ is simply fair enough.

‘Klang’ picks up, pulsating subtly, its rhythm reduced to an electronic throb like a sore finger. It pulses and thrums like a rising tide against a sandy shore. It has a tangible density, a physical resonance, which contrasts with the vagueness of the appropriately-titled ‘Insubstantial’ and the 22-minute closer in the form of the title track. It’s not about form but feel, and Peel feels soft, reaching out across territories and emotional landscapes with no agenda and no set motive. This freedom is refreshing, not to mention rare.

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Cruel Nature Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be a flippant cliché to describe this offering by the insanely prolific Whirling Hall of Knives (this is their fourth release of 2020 and their thirteen full-length album) as an album of two halves, split as it is across two sides of the cassette release – but it would also be a valid assessment of its musical contents, also. For while it is consistently atmospheric and droney throughout, the six tracks, which bleed into one another to create the sensation of two longform tracks (the digital version is even mastered as such) consisting of a number of passages, they each bear a distinct character, if not necessarily form.

With such a daunting back catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to begin both on terms of exploration and comparison, but it’s probably fair to say that being neither as harsh as some efforts, or as ominously oppressive as others, Sabre is representative while siting at the more accessible end of their output spectrum.

These compositions are loose, transitional, and while they do lead the listener on a sonic journey of sorts, it’s meandering and non-linear in its trajectory.

The clattering rhythm that marches in the opening bars of the first track, ‘Laid to Rust’, immediately reminds me of the intro to ‘Breathe’ by Ministry, although perhaps a shade dubbier. But the percussion soon fades out and leaves, not grating metal guitars, but tapering whistles of feedback and drones like damaged woodwind. But this is very much a percussive album, at times verging on experimental dance music… and so in fades ‘Those Tracers’, the lead single, accompanied by a video we’re immensely proud to premiere here at AA. This is very much a work of abstract freeform dance music that bumps along in a vortex bubble.

Side A closes off with the altogether more attacking ‘Gutterpressed’, a gritty industrial grating through which bleak winds howl desolately.

Side B’s three cuts are lower, slower, dronier. Before sliding into a sepulchural reverence, ‘Olde Slice (Edit) is ominous and sparse. When the beats do emerge on ‘Ring Dialog’, they’re swampy and backed off, some indistinguishable robotix vocals echoing into a murky mass. The final track, ‘Barkd’ drift and hovers for so long, but suddenly, from amidst distant chords that reverberate hints of the sparsest, most minimal desert rock , percussion rises and drives away at a heavy beat and pulsating industrial bass throb to conjure an intense and oppressive atmosphere as the album inches toward its finale.

Sabre isn’t easy to categorise, and at times, it’s not that easy to listen to, either. But that’s what makes it.

Preorder Sabre here.

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Sige 071 – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nordra is the vehicle by which Monika Khot, of Zen Mother, and a touring member of Daughters delivers ‘apocalyptic dirges combining modern classical explorations of electronic ambience with hardware-fueled industrial barrages’.

The press release explains the transition and difference between Pylon III and its predecessor, Pylon II: ‘Nordra’s second outing, the commissioned score for PYLON II, was a hard-edged martial exercise—fitting for the dystopian nature of the series’ second installment. But for PYLON III, Pester was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and requested that Khot instill her work with hope and calm in order to serve the utopian aims of the performance’.

Hope and calm aren’t the initial senses I draw from listening to the ten compositions that comprise Pylon III. In fact, I find myself adrift, and also buffeted from one emotional moodspace to another. Lugubrious, haunting, and often eerie, unsettling, Pylon III is no relaxation tape by which to practise meditational breathing.

Stuttering beats, murky and muffled and rapid like machinegun fire bather hard against dense, slow-turning, ethereal drones, juxtaposing tension and tranquillity. The seven-minute ‘Monologue on the Beach’ is very much representative of the album as whole: piano notes ring out, sparse and lonely against eddying, undulating notes, particularly as it’s followed immediately by the booming drones of ‘Un-Hopeful’, the sonorous parp of a cruise liner’s horn sounding into a thick fog.

‘Reconciliation’ marches hard, a short, stabbing loop thumping insistently while dark serrated drones loom unexpectedly and seemingly at random, like sharks emerging from the depths. ‘Transcendence 1’ hints at something approximating conventional dance tropes, with its regular, pulsating beat that booms into a ocean of reverb as the bass builds. ‘Transcendence 2’ could well be off another album altogether as Nordra goes ‘rock’ – a chugging guitar plugs away at a couple of chords while drum twitches away nervously, and strong seep in with additional tension. It has hints of Swans about it in its density and its mesmeric insistence, and it makes for a compelling and hypnotic conclusion to an intriguing album.

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