Posts Tagged ‘I’

Cruel Nature Records – 4th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature’s programme of releasing difficult, niche music on cassette tom a discerning audience continues with this Finnish-Iranian collaboration of droney, dark ambience with lots of echoes and ominous, subterranean beats that resonate with dark overtones of damp caves and tunnels. The coming together of different cultural backgrounds lies very much as the heart of this release, and those contrasting elements are celebrated in their coming together. I say celebrated because while this is by no means an uplifting album. Indeed, the five compositions are often darkly sombre or otherwise menacing and unsettling. There is a sense that this release – details of which are sketchy, particularly about those behind it – is hinged upon these differences, which almost suggest it shouldn’t work, and that it only does so by virtue of grim determination and a certain musical ear.

It’s difficult to make a fully-informed critique of works that bring together music from diverse cultural backgrounds without appearing as some Jools Hollandy ‘world music’ wanker, but I’d like to think that delving into more nuanced and less populist works means I have some handle on differentiating a release such as this from one like, say, Paul Simon’s Gracelands. The simple and key differentiating feature is that Gnäw pull on myriad influences from across the sonic and geographical range without patronising their sources.

The percussion becomes more prominent as the album progresses, and on ‘گمگشته چوپان’ frenetic hand-drumming dominates the murky drones that hover and hang with a heavy air. Esoteric string instruments are plucked, quaveringly, the notes echoing outwards.

The tension builds and the tone of the drones shift, darker and denser, taking a further turn for the more monotonous and more oppressive on حل’اج’m which makes a sudden shift in the final couple of minutes, tapering down to a mellow, noodling, doodling mellowness that feels like a release, a moment of much-needed relaxation.

Closer ‘Marras’, the album’s longest track, meanders and trembles tremulously, leading the listener on a difficult and at times addling route along a journey with a questionable destination. But who cares where we’re going with an album like this? It’s all about the ride, and I is a weird and wonderful mystery tour.

Video by Jase Kester

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Rock is Hell – RIP67

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been out a little while now but has only recently landed with me. I can’t feel too much guilt: Regolith aren’t exactly the fastest of movers, however you look at it. They’ve been going for a full decade, and despite having racked up a substantial catalogue of EPs and split releases, it’s taken until now to get around to a proper album (although, arguably, 2009’s Music for Hot Air Balloon, with its three tracks spanning a full hour, would constitute an album by most people’s reckoning). Musically, they’re not exactly about pace, either, trading in crawling ambient drone of almost incomprehensible proportions.

Their debut album proper isn’t exactly about the immediate hit, the hooks or the general accessibility, either, and necessarily requires time to engage, cogitate and digest.

I is a monster work: a double album comprising just four tracks. And the sound is as immense as the album’s duration, inching toward the 80-minute mark, with each of the tracks clocking in around 20 minutes in duration. But it’s not just about the length: feel the weight. The sounds may be produced electronically using analogue synths and a vast array of effects, and Regolith may describe themselves as ‘tech freaks’, but the material is heavily steeped in the tropes of doom. Having spent my childhood living on the flight path of the takeoff / landing of the RAF Vulcans, I feel qualified to make the analogy of the drones sounding like jet engines rumble and roar, a spectrum of lower-end frequencies that focus on the ribcage, the particle-splitting noise is also more than enough to terrorize the most dulled eardrums. ‘Platinum’ sounds like my young recollections of the Falklands War. The molecule-destroying, air-shredding sound engulfs the listener; the experience is immersive and annihilative.

‘Comet Tails’ is a far sparser affair, echoed beats decaying into the void, the space between the sounds comparable to the distance between planets. Gradually, as slowly as a planet on the outer reaches of a solar system orbits its sun, a low drone begins to rise and swell, a dark, large sonorous body of sound, a black hole cruising closer with inexorable determination. The hum continues to grow until its edges begin to distort and disintegrate and bleeds into ‘Star Trails’. One benefit of hearing this in a digital format is the two tracks do run together. Of course, the downside is simply that however enormous the sound, the full enormity can only really be conveyed via the medium of vinyl, and ideally on a decent set-up with a solid amp and some fuck-off powerful speakers. It’s an album that has the capacity to make the earth move.

The sound is more than fitting for a band named after ‘a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial material covering solid rock, which includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons,’ and whose objective is to create ‘music on a geological scale; music of mountains, shifting like glaciers, slow and relentless processes on grand timescales’. The tracks on I are at once heavy on the ground, and beyond gravity, simultaneously tectonic in their movement and of galactic proportions.

Regolith

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