Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

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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KMRU – Peel

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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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

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5th June 2020

James Wells

So The Moms is not a bunch of women who meet for coffee or a WhatsApp group about homework, but actually three dudes from Copenhagen who trade in textural noise/free improv, manipulating conventional instruments in self-invented unorthodox ways. On this, their self-released debut which contains a single track of 39 minutes and 34 seconds in duration, they promise ‘no soothing melodies or calming new-age harmonies, yet it can be a meditative experience if you accept the push and let your mind slip through the void.’

It sort of sounds like jazz in its origins, as some kind of brass struggles for breath, honking and parping in a strangled tone. Low-end grumbles and high-end fizzing duel for dominance as the jostle around mid-range drones. The ratio of droniness and rasping horniness and warped jazz dissonance vary as the elements interweave, shifting and mutating.

At times sparse, minimal, subdued and strained toots expectedly from within extended sections of restrained low-level noise, punctuated by thuds and thumps: strains of feedback and scraping are recurring sonic elements as the ever-shifting piece drips from swirling murk to squealing torture, with distortion and discord dominating.

The final minutes build to a climax of shrill, shrieking cacophonous noise before slowly dissipating to draw the curtain on an album that’s restless and difficult, an album that doesn’t allow the listener to settle into a single frame of mind for more than a couple of minutes, as it twists and turns, honks and churns.

It’s by no means commercial, but nor does it have any will to be, and in its field of jazz-orientated experimentalism, Kalipedia is a solid debut.

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Cruel Nature – CN132 – 25th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Mike Vest happens to be in several noisy bands I really, really rate, notably Ozo, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias and Drunk in Hell. And now, while I’m wondering if the guy has somehow mastered cloning and not told anyone, you can add to that staggering list Lush Worker, his solo project.

Cruel Nature, one of two Newcastle-based cassette labels who represent the city’s tight-knit but remarkably prolific and outstandingly strong underground scene, which is a melting pot for all shades or nasty noise and dark metal-orientated music, here serves up a whopping portion of Lush Worker, with three albums bundled onto a limited-edition double cassette spanning nearly two hours of what they describe as ‘heavy shockwave drone and dream guitar noise overload, perfect to bliss out to’.

The first of half a dozen Lush Worker releases from 2019, Cruise was first released digitally last February, and essentially comprises the twenty-eight-minute title track, a long, swirling guitar drone that straddles shoegaze and ambience, with a brace of shorter (sub-two-minute) ‘sample’ tracks, omitted here presumably for space, continuity and purpose. Because while this may be three albums, it may s well be one monster album, and is perhaps best approached as such.

Admittedly, no-one is likely (alright, I’m making a substantial assumption here) to listen to this either an album at a time, or as a whole in a single sitting. Not because it doesn’t flow perfectly as a single-sitting piece, but because even in lockdown, does anyone have that kind of time?

So ‘Cruise’ cruises on, slowly, a spiralling cathedral of guitar that simultaneously drones and soars in a mess of wailing feedback and misshapen chords. There’s some distant beat in the mix, but its submerged beneath an undulating tide of treble.

The five cuts of ‘slow burn guitar’ from the appropriately-titled Uplift, released in October 2019, with the exception of ‘Flatliner’ are all around the nine-minute mark, and are more rhythmic, if not necessarily overtly structured: ‘Sub-Ether’ is a heavily psychedelic shoegaze swirl, centred around a repetitive, cyclical motif overlaid with layer upon layer of FX-soaked overdrive, with the album tapering to an elongated buzzing drone on ‘Frozen Egypt’, where it’s the slow-melting bass trip that makes it.

Somewhere in the haze of dubby desert rock, there’s a soaring experimental psychedelic drone on ‘Slow Zone Design’, and howling lead guitars duel against one another, occasionally colliding in a smash of metallic sparks.

Although presented here out of sequence (and the cassette sequence is different again from the digital release), with Hb1c MkII having been released in May, it makes sense for its two half-hour behemoth efforts to round off this release, mirroring its opening counterpart. However, ‘Hb1c MkII’ is a much mellower piece, a near-ambient drift of echo and delay, the chiming notes floating and fading into a rippling haze, before ‘Sobek 110’ delineates things further, a twenty-eight minute single-note drone at heart, it’s a meditative, medicated, soporific experience.

Collectively, these three albums demonstrate different but connected and complimentary facets of Vests Lush Worker output. Dim the lights and explore.

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Cruel Nature – CN133

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often demo tapes get a ‘proper’ release. Then again, it’s not often you actually get demo tapes these days: cassettes may be making something of a comeback on the underground, but you’re more likely to get a demo recorded on mobiles with the tracks assembled using some smart software than on a four track. I remember my old Fostex X-18 seeming incredibly compact back in ’92. Less true of the X55, but with its double-speed spooling and advanced mixing capability, it was more like having a proper studio on your desk. How times have changed.

But when it comes to black metal, low-grade production is integral to the aesthetic. It’s supposed to be impenetrably murky, the songs emerging from a booming condenser mic recording overloaded with volume, crackle, and hiss.

I was fortunate to catch Petrine Cross virtually live at a Heinous Whining streaming event the other week, and it was devastating: I was blown away by the dark intensity of the performance, and this release confirm this was no one-off or a case of me being carried away with too many cans in my atempt to recreate the gig experience at home.

A solo project for Esmé Louise Newman of emotionally-charged black metal duo Penance Stare (and her resumé is pretty impressive too), Petrine Cross is pitched as ‘Thought-provoking raw ambient black metal, inspired through solitude and literature, that hits hard in all its oppressive glory.’

‘Charred Skirts and Deathmask’ could be read one of a number of was, but it begins with a soft-edged undulating drone, which continues throughout its eight-plus-minute duration beneath a crushing deluge of punishing guitar noise. There are no discernible chords, no clear structure, just a full-on deluge of sludge. There are some vocals in there somewhere, too, I think. I don’t need the details, and that’s perhaps as well, as they’re obfuscated by a dense wall of undifferentiated sound that’s all in the mid and lower ranges.

I’m listening by candlelight and screen glare, and it seems appropriate as the snarling blast of ‘I Beneath a Rougher Sea’ tears from the speakers, a muffled, murky blast of a cyclical chord sequence, overloading with distortion. It takes some time for any form to emerge from the searing sonic wall, and when it does, it’s vague, melting in its blisteringly intense grind.

The recordings may be primitive, but I’m not sure they would necessarily benefit from a more luxurious, layered studio treatment. The context is key: this is black metal – albeit in a stripped-back, ambient form – and doesn’t require polish. These recordings are cavernously dark and dredge the depths of the soul. Search deep.

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Room40 RM401 – 1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

One aspect of postmodernism that can be both intriguing and frustrating is its tendency to contradiction. Moreover, the way in which postmodern criticism centres in on the contradictions of postmodern art, culture, and society, and extrapolates how postmodern art revels in the contradictions inherent in postmodern culture without in any way seeking to resolve them. Postmodernity seems to suggest that questions are enough, without need for answers. But are they?

Living in England, I’ve witnessed post-postmodernity taken to the most meta of levels in recent days having witnessed Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempting to detail the new guidelines for managing the COVID-19 pandemic on our small island, and am, along with the rest of the nation reeling at the advice that if I can’t work from home I should go to work, but I shouldn’t go to work if possible, and if I do have to go to work, to avoid public transport, and if I am working from home, it’s ok to go out as much as I like for exercise but only if essential, and I can meet people from other households, but only one person and it must be outdoors, and while maintain a 2-metre distance, which is the same as the distance as from people in public anyway.

Where am I going with this? Apart from more questions, more rhetoric?

Less is more. But sometimes, it’s also less. Lawrence English’s latest offering consists of two longform tracks, of around twenty minutes a piece, corresponding with a side of vinyl or cassette, although at present, Lassitude is only being released as a download. And not a lot happens.

‘Saccade (For Elaine Radigue)’begins with a trilling, rapid-oscillating drone that hangs in he mid-range. It doesn’t do anything, and doesn’t go anywhere, but gradually blurs. No, the sound remains static: the perception of it blurs. At least for a time, after which the notes slow and melt together.

There’s less texture and less shift to ‘Lassitude’, which sustains an even hum for the majority of its twenty-minute duration. It has no direction, and no substantial content, but that isn’t the purpose. There are tonal shifts, gradual gradients down, but they’re slowly incremental, almost subliminal. And ultimately, to what end?

Perhaps there is no end: perhaps this is the end. Perhaps the end has been coming, slowly, all this time, and our lives to now have been a waiting for the end. Perhaps not. What do we know?

AA

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Ideologic Organ -  SOMA037 – 17th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurbage which accompanies this release was prefaced by a line from Eyvind Kang, stating, ‘The digital release idea has been a kind of lifeline, a way of thinking of music and sound as survivance and meditation’.

We are indeed fortunate: if we think isolation in the age of the global village is difficult, imagine life during previous plague pandemics. One may argue that without the blizzard of (dis)information being disseminated, we’d be in a much better place, but however much we may miss our friends and relatives, things are undoubtedly easier for many – although certainly not everyone – in the Internet age.

Writing from his Berlin sublet, where he says he is ‘here for the duration it seems’ Stephen O’Malley says ‘We are all in these similar boats, together.’ And there is some comfort in all of this. For a time, I’d been concerned that continuing with music reviews in the face of everything was somehow an act which diminished, undermined the gravity of the situation. People are dying, people are alone, unable to leave the house. And here I am spouting opinions about music?

Of course, we need all arts, in particular music, now more than ever, to fill the gaps. And the artists need to keep making music, and not just for financial reasons: artists have a tendency to respond to situations by making art, and my writing about it is part of the dissemination process. And so, after a couple of wilderness weeks where the very act of sitting in front of a screen and keyboard felt like the very definition of futility, I came to see it more of a duty.

The latest material from PHURPA, Hymns of Gyer is one of four new titles on Ideologic Organ.

It’s a low, wheezing, groaning sound that drones and echoes the introduction to Hymns of Gyer. Sounding somewhere between a digeridoo and a zen om chant from deep within a cave, it’s both ominous and meditative.

Enigmatic Russian collective, PHURPA, centred around Alexey Tegin have steadily been building a catalogue of spiritually-focused and other-worldly sounding recordings centred around Bön, Tibet’s oldest spiritual tradition. Hymns of Gyer features four mesmeric vocal drones, and if Sunn O))) did throat singing, it would sound like this.

The slow undulations and the multiple voices, each droning pitch resonating against the others in an endless succession of swells and ebbs, sometimes booming and billowing.

There is no discernible structure or form, but the purpose of these performances is about a different kind of focus: an inner focus, one which achieves a transcendental oneness. ‘0.1 [3]’ and ‘01.3’ yawn and drone on for over a quarter of an hour apiece, with the latter in particular building a dense, low-end breathy intensity, elevating and ululating expansively with an effect that resonates around the lungs. This is incredibly physical music, body music in the most literal sense. It’s impossible to dissect either the sound of its effect. All you can know is that it IS. It rumbles around every inch of your being. It doesn’t speak to or of anything. It just echoes and envelops, and immerses.

Listening with no real expectation, I found my breathing slowed, my pulse slowed. Maybe this was what I needed. Maybe this what we all need. It’s impossible to be prescriptive right now, but the drowning sprawl of Hymns of Gyer very much does offer an oasis of meditative calm.

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Géante 4 is a graphically scored piece that I’ve illustrated/written of about 10-12 minutes in length that I was hoping you could tackle as a solo piece. It involves between 3-7 voicings per section over 5 sections, in total around 10-12 minutes. I had the Japanese guitarist Michio Kurahara do a version of this last autumn when we were doing some basic tracking for this session in Tokyo.

We also did a 90-minute version in Norway last summer with 2 double bass players, a haldorophone, piano and sine wave/tape. I’d love for you to approach this very much as you like, based on the rough parameters of the score. I imagine that the common aspects to Kurahara’s version would be the sustained tones and the transitions, as well as the modes you’re transitioning between.”

So begins O’Malley’s missive to Stuart Dempster, trombonist (or, as his brief bio states, ‘Sound Gatherer – trombonist, composer, didjeriduist, et al, and Professor Emeritus at University of Washington’) with avant-garde collective Eye Music, who are here represented as an octet.

O’Malley’s directions are simultaneously clear and vague, and the same is true of the blank ambience this release contains: namely, two versions of the same piece, meaning both the four- and five-layer mixes are 12:41 in duration.

The elongated notes of echoing drones, dense, sinewy, turn gradually fade in and hover… and hover… and swirl. The overall blend of sound bears no resemblance to the sum of the parts, and electric guitar, flute, cello, trombone, harmonium, field organ, synthesizer, and bowed stringboard with metal slide and blur and melt into a broad, organic-sounding wash that paints in broad watercolour strokes.

I’m not so anal as to sit and compare the two tracks intonation by intonation, and I haven’t attempted to play them simultaneously. The 5 layer mix does feel deeper, denser, slower, darker, but it cold equally be my variable and gradually declining mood, as happens some evenings. Many. No doubt a detailed comparison may prove illuminating, and prove of some value to someone somewhere, but no-one needs it here as part of a review, and besides, I’d hate to spoil your fun.

Fun isn’t top of the list with this release: beat-free, sans overt structure, and ambient with some more brooding tendencies, the atmosphere is cloudy, overcast and hints at a turbulence that never actually arrives, but is always bubbling over the horizon: the soundtrack not to a storm, but a preceding pressure drop.

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