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Posts Tagged ‘drone’

The collaborators on “Epoch” are very well known in the ambient and experimental music fields. Shane Morris is fluent with many percussion and wind instruments, and hardware and software synths. In addition, he co-owns and operates Ethereal Live. Thomas Park (aka Mystified and Mister Vapor) is a prolific musician in the ambient and atmospheric genres, and he also owns Treetrunk Records and its spinoff, Complex Silence.

Aside from this release, the artists have a huge wealth of back catalogue and experience in a number of genres, and are both gifted innovators. “Epoch” is described in the CD’s sleevenotes as being the first part of an epic trilogy entitled “Inspired Evolution”. Only acoustic instruments and sounds were used in the album’s production.

“Epoch” takes us across four geological time periods, initially to the “Cambrian Explosion”. Here, the listener is immersed in almost tangible primordial dampness and heat, with deep bass and long minor shifting drones. Uncertain shapes slither off at the sides; there is a sense of breath being taken for the first time. It’s extremely compelling listening, and a lovely taste of what’s to come. “Devonia”, the album’s longest cut, lays small seeds down under long, ominous notes which furl and unfurl like sonic rope. The soundscape beguiles the listener with a keening, hypnotic repeated motif hanging in the ether above rock-solid didgeridoo drones. Organic splashes and burbles signify the changes in the forms of terrestrial life. This music is incredibly visual; it’s almost as if we are watching a film. It’s a stunning track, and one which I’ve played again and again.

The shortest offering here, at just under nine minutes long, “Triassic Extinction” represents the end of the period of the same name, where at least half of the species on the planet became extinct. The music is sad and sorrowful, with metallic rings spinning to the left and right of empty, thin drones. Tiny organic sounds flounder in a huge, welling space. When the listener considers the events the music attempts to describe, it becomes a moving piece which seems to reflect the frailty of life against gargantuan forces. It’s very thoughtfully done, and extremely evocative.

The final cut, “Jurassic Dawn”, heralds a time of positive change for the earth; we are now in the age of reptiles, which of course includes the dinosaurs. Vast changes take place in the music compared with the previous tracks. Sounds representative of birds and small mammals are here, but it’s impossible to ignore the presence of large, lumbering creatures, their heavy footsteps thudding as they roam across the ground. Open major drones hint at the potential ahead as this period dawns. There is no stasis here; the music morphs and evolves, widening out descriptively as new forms of life are introduced. The percussive footsteps of the dinosaurs provide percussion, but with no rhythm. A didgeridoo raises uncertain calls as it explores its new world of activity amongst the changing shapes of nature’s novel creations.

I have to confess I’ve never experienced music quite like this before. It would be very easy to use the word cinematic, but that simply would not do justice to what is effectively film drawn in sound. It’s an utterly stunning album, and I cannot wait to hear what the duo conjures up next.

Many thanks to Thomas for supplying me with a promo copy of the album.

Label: Lotuspike   Cat: LSM23   Artist: Shane Morris & Mystified   Price: $$

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This double-CD equivalent from Jarguna is fresh from the Earth Mantra netlabel. With seven previous releases listed in the Italian artist’s discography, this is his debut release for EM.

“Waiting for a Call From the Unknown Part 1” is the longest cut on the album, running at just over 36 minutes. Long slow drones set the pace for the first four and a half minutes, before being joined by a single note repeating pensively over the drones as they begin to circulate restlessly. Dark synths begin to weave in and out, and mysterious burbles float around the soundspace. There’s a sense of slow, tentative movement as a quiet rhythm starts around the nine minute mark.  Twenty-two minutes or so in, it seems as if contact might be made, but there’s no certainty.

The second track, “Dark Side of Calliope” is the shortest of four, but still weighs in at nearly sixteen minutes. It’s discordant, and dark as the title suggests. Great swells of synth washes veer off to left and right; there’s little in the way of comfort here. Long metallic drones clash with one another in a struggle of titanic proportions. Around half way though, chords begin to form, and the mood lightens, though only a little, as the sound changes from conflict to a feeling of wonder. As we float towards the end, it really feels as if we’re suspended in the vast coldness of space.

“Commutator” starts out on something of a lighter note. There are some major chords here, overlaid with percussive metallic sounds and long bass rumbles. But there’s something very otherworldly about the music; something not human. It’s almost as if we’re inside a giant machine, witnessing activity taking place that’s too difficult to comprehend. A rhythm begins around a third of the way in, and starts to shape the music into something we might be able to understand. The beat grows thicker and denser, propelling the track forward with malevolent intent. Snatches of alien speech appear, vying for our attention against a scattershot, almost Berlin School synth sequence.

The closer, “Waiting for a Call From the Unknown Part 2”, is the second longest track on the album, at just shy of 32 minutes. An eerie drone throbs underneath a minor chord and they begin to fold and unfold, like a double helix. Around the sixth minute, the drone and chord fall away leaving us with breaths and organic noises. The buzzing of unfamiliar machinery pans rapidly left and right, disorienting the listener before suspending us in darkness. Seventeen minutes in, and it feels as if the awaited connection has finally been made. Communication takes place; there’s an exchange of knowledge and information as two species, light years apart, share their experiences. The album closes with a bright, positive view towards the future.

Jarguna explains in the notes that the album is “a distillation of my musings when I focus my thought on empty spaces, the Universe, and its mysteries”. For me, it strikes a fabulous balance between space music and ambient, though leaning heavily towards the former.

Label: Earth Mantra   Cat: earman194   Artist: Jarguna   Price: Free

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Saito Koji – Again

Saito Koji is a musician currently living in Fukushima in Japan. His latest release, “Again”, his seventh on the Resting Bell netlabel, consists of eight tracks, each of which is three minutes long, just like its predecessor, “Guide”. An article about the artist on the website Current tells us that “since the nuclear disaster in March 2011 in Fukushima, Saito Koji composes pieces based on distorsion [sic] and much more powerful ‘noise’ guitar sounds”, which gives us an indication of what to expect; for me, at least, that description doesn’t do justice to the music here.

The opening track, “Alone”, is a wash of power-driven guitar drone, three chords to the left and mirrored to the right, with feedback tails, repeated again and again. The chords are major rather than minor as the title might suggest. It stands as a fine opening statement of intent. Track two, “Aurora”, is blissful experimentally-tinged ambience, hazy and shimmering, hovering perfectly in the air.

“Dog” is a huge processed feedback loop of sheer, pulsing energy. I’d be happy to listen to a much longer version of this to see it evolve further, but it’s amazing as it stands. Then “Joy” leads us towards the EP’s halfway mark with a gigantic, stunning wall of metallic sound, perfectly in tune, which sears its way into our ears.

The second half kicks off with “Magic”, another wash of simple chords, driven to their maximum to create a simple, yet ethereal beauty. “Sunset” has massive peals of chord pairs firing off to the left and right in a huge tapestry of reverberant noise.

The penultimate track “Touch” has an almost aching sense of loss. A slow pulse is centred amidst a vast sonic barrage of long, strung out guitar chords, which shift ever so gently from a simple chord to a complex one. “Wash” takes us to the end of the music with an almost overpowering glow of gorgeous heavily-processed guitar which soars from one chord to another, then back.

It’s astonishing how much high-quality music can be placed into 24 short minutes. Every track fades out; there’s nothing jarring or unpleasant in anything here, though listeners may wish to keep an eye on volume levels, which are high. But the whole thing is quite a remarkable experience. I definitely want to listen to other releases by the artist.

Label: Resting Bell   Cat: RB108   Artist: Saito Koji   Price: Free

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Ethereal Live has been one of my favourite labels since its launch just over a year ago. The label describes itself as a place for “archiving live performances of ambient, dark ambient, drone, minimal, and space musics”. The key word for me here is “live”, as it puts a keen twist on perspectives that we don’t always get from genres of music which are often produced, tweaked and perfected in a studio, whether real or virtual.

Symatic Star is Simon Walsh, who lives in Western Australia. This is Simon’s second release on this label; in addition, he has a number of tracks available for download or streaming on Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

The album comprises of a single live set, just over 35 minutes in length. What’s particularly fascinating about the set is the mix of acoustic instruments, drones, and other synth textures. The acoustic instrumentation played live on the set includes didgeridoo, gongs, and an African instrument called the mbira, which I hadn’t heard of before – it sounds to me a little similar to a marimba, though it looks nothing like one.

So, how’s the music? Well, it begins with twinned synths pairing off in stereo, before being joined by a didgeridoo. Space sounds peel off at the high end, before the mbira appears. It makes a series of statements, then questions. These two sounds, from two completely different cultures, complement each other perfectly here. Synth spirals flow in above the mbira. More didgeridoo opens out to space synths, this time dense and more complex, with muffled chords filling the midrange. A lead synth appears, sounding unresolved above a dense ambient wash.

A pulsing rhythm begins around halfway through the track, and it starts to pull the music along, but the rhythm is soon swallowed by an immense drone, then obliterated by darkness. A conflict between high and low begins and confuses the senses, before the listener is immersed in a protracted wall of drones, piercing synth notes and percussive effects. The music then fades to conclusion.

I haven’t heard every release on this label yet, but I think “Transmissions” is definitely their best one to date.

Label: Ethereal Live   Cat: EL021   Artist: Symatic Star   Price: Free

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