A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Nothing is worse than active ignorance – Goethe

Up till a few days ago I was working in a medical clinic in South-East London. One of those ‘up and coming’ areas, each road flanked by dowdy, breeze-blocked hutches with the odd new bar sandwiched in between. I blame bars and gastro-pubs for the economic crisis of 2009. Too many of the damn things sprung up all over the place, and of course the new managers had to get their money from somewhere in order to pay back their loans. What better way to solve the problem of funding your middle-class dream than to charge godly sums of cash for even the most meagre of comestibles to go with your German lager, I even remember one bar in Muswell Hill asking £4 for a packet of crisps. Not just any crisps of course, but natural, organic root vegetable slivers in a small tube. Instead of a Pringle-esque strongman, some hand-drawn sketch of a couple of parsnips and a carrot adorned the front, probably with a rural farmer in the background looking on proudly at his crop and reminiscing on the large amounts of money he wouldn’t be ceding from getting up at 4.30am every morning in order to feed the glossed lips of the well-to-do North Londonites in N10. From Gable To Table, the slogan should have read. Bless those funny folk and their tramsheds, customers would muse as they twizzled their G&T stirrers.

The people near the clinic were altogether something else, a real mix of misfits who would come in for the most pitiful of ailments. As someone who would hardly go to the GP for a rapidly increasing heartrate should I worry the ECG monitor, I was making space for the doubled-up hobbits of the vicinity to rush in at even the excitement of seeing a bee on a cold day.

The locals are questionable where I live too, SE8 is a hive of working-class activity or inactivity depending on what the weather chooses to be doing. The Brits are disgustingly affected by the hot weather. Summer, ‘Season of Yellow Awfulness’ as Jonathan Meades called it. 22 degrees is generally the Rubicon, above which everyone streams out of their houses like children into a theme park, invading the local area with all manner of noise – music noise, football noise, screaming noise, ice-cream-van noise, riant noise, noisy noise. The call of the idiots, the summer-zombies. They probably have digital barometers on their walls with an alarm set to 22C, at which point Coronation Street goes off, they throw on the ballerina pumps and belt out of their UPVC doorways while the local pubs run around looking for the connector cables to the public televisions. That’s what people do in hot weather, after all. They go to pubs. They move from drinking and watching football in their living rooms to drinking and watching football down the road for three times the price.

We had this work experience child in the clinic, this well-spoken, well-dressed but slightly awkward teenager who’d sit at reception and do little else but make pyramids out of plastic cups for two weeks, giving a less than ideal impression of time-management and usefulness to the good citizens of South London. He would talk about music to me, as would a couple of other people on reception who, in their “real lives” were very much involved in their respective chosen music scenes. After this kid left and rotated back to his existence in a hardened Christian upbringing with weekly reproaches through overly-strict parenting, more new work experience kids entered. I remember one of them, a rakish, tall, hipster-looking something with awful, swishy Lego-man hair sitting behind reception on my arrival, waiting indifferently for something to happen. Wearing earphones, white ones at that. I mused over our incidental dialogue for when I would show him round the clinic later that morning, “so, what were you listening to there?” “Oh, nothing, just some indie music…”, “indie eh… well, I bet you were listening to Gang Gang Dance or Iceage or Grizzly Bear or Mumford… haha, isn’t Pitchfork great?”

For a moment I was serious about the idea. I then realised how desperately sad I sounded, and how so many music fans think they’re experts. Whether they admit it openly or hold it in silently.

The same was true of myself years ago. At the start of 2002 I was thrown into a state of bewilderment and wonder at the sound of After Forever over Shoutcast radio. This, I felt, was my calling. And I must let absolutely everybody know about it. I should let everybody see that I not only had a newer, developed taste in music, but that I ostensibly had a new identity. I was… this newer person that listened to metal. And such a person dresses differently, listens to loads of depressing music, I even considered dropping my normal speaking voice a few tones in order to sound more ‘dark’ [and I know some people who actually went ahead and did it]. I had actually been listening to metal on and off since 1995, but something about this really grabbed me and inspired me to make a sea-change in my life, one which I’m very thankful for. And, given my obsessive nature, I had to know absolutely everything about it. I had to become an ‘authority’.

I don’t think that this is a particularly exceptional move. It’s common lore that the more obscure bands you now, the more knowledgeable about your particular area you are. There are even people who will go out of their way to listen to bands with below 200 listeners on Last FM, avoiding the horror of turning into something too mainstream, whatever the mainstream counts for now. The mainstream isn’t something to be detested and ridiculed, any more than a Twix bar should be detested for being bad food. Sure, there are charlatans masquerading as talented artists, but so there are in Covent Garden market. Just walk past and hold onto your change.

I’m realising more and more that this whole thing is more of a learning experience than a teaching experience. By talking about the music we have dug up from the post-industrial underground, we should not only be talking about what we know, but exploring what we’d like it to be. In a thriving underground scene saturated with artist upon artist of samey, innovation-less slobber, we should take more notice of where we’re going rather than where we are and where we’ve been. We are not special because we are specialised: everyone feels that their own interests are worth something, whether they be death metal and extreme fetishisms or Su Doku and package holidays to Majorca.

The bane of the underground music scene is not only arrogant fans, but arrogant musicians, and I’ve seen my fair share of both. A one-second realisation in that South London clinic put any remaining shred of my attitude into perspective, possibly because right there I saw what I had been years ago. Without there being room for what we don’t know, there is no more space for learning, no more space for discovery and no more space for experience. We should see as much value in our knowledge gaps as the content surrounding them.

So how to go about this? The main idea is to think outside our sphere of reference, a very difficult thing to do. We all move in and out of a routine which we don’t always realise, whether it be in our working days or in our music listening. As with many examples of successfully breaking routines, the chief way is to go to places you wouldn’t normally go to. Visit websites which seem uncomfortably different; look around; explore; improvise. Don’t be one of those people who spam the Recommendations board at Metal Archives, urgently seeking something overspecific like grindcore with female vocals, synths, viola interludes and references to cheese culturing. If you’re looking to introduce variety to your music listening through such wild criteria, you’re already lost.

The most surprising results come from experimentation, a tiring exercise indeed, but most of the time the consequences will be worth it just when you’re ready to give up. The more we search, the harder it is to be self-important. The sheer volume of material out there is grander, bigger and more daunting than one can ever triumph over. When I was younger I thought I was enlightened because I knew more than my peers. But when your peers feature the musical underground as a whole, it’s a very humbling perspective.

Pikacyu★Makoto – OM Sweet Home : We Are Shining Stars From Darkside

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Pikacyu*Makoto put on an amazing live show. I came across a video of theirs several weeks ago and was stunned by their energy, exuberance, acumen and general lack of give-a-fuckery towards music. Highlights veered between Makato thrashing around in an ape suit, Pikacyu squeaking like a rusted hinge while attacking the drums with vehemence and hatred, and at other times hanging off the roof truss screaming into a contact mic. It looked very much like an intriguing, aural-porn fusion of Aaron Dilloway and The White Stripes [well, someone had to make The White Stripes references].

This is really what art should be about these days. Especially when the music scene is all too full of overcautious copycat cheats desperate to push themselves up on each others’ heads, it’s refreshing to see a band turn up the flame and hurl their instruments around like balls in a tombola. But what happens all too often is the mistranslation from live show to disc. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and many bands have desperately tried to capture the energy of their live performances on CD with varying degrees of non-success. At The Drive in, for instance, recorded all of In/Casino/Out as a live studio album, whereas the eponymous Black Sabbath was recorded in only one day. It seems real energy only gets focussed into these discs when the band are under some kind of pressure or stress, otherwise the sense of urgency and ingenuity doesn’t quite come across. One shouldn’t be doing second takes on spontaneity.

So We Are Shining Stars From Darkside is a more downtuned, downturned and downbeat offering on disc from what you’d expect if you’d seen the band in a live setting. The main thrust of Pikacyu*Makoto’s work is psychedelic rock with a large quanity of experimental passages thrown in, recorded in a distanced, far-off manner to give it that spacey, ethereal sound all too common in the world of neo-psychedelia. Most of the guitar and instrumental work is undertaken by Acid Mother Temple’s Makoto, the multi-armed, multi-talented musician who seems to have his fingers in as many pies as Shiva on the munchies, and Pika (Higashi Mineko) who takes care of all the drum and vocal work, as well as the guitar on the final track, I’m In You.

Where the album succeeds is in the longer numbers. WASSFD depends on time in order to get its message successfully across – time to generate atmosphere and time to throw in as many elements of chaotic disorder as possible, hence Birth Star and the 11-minute Back To Your House Over The Rainbow are by far the most victorious numbers. Pika sings or shrieks her way through each track while Makoto provides the heaviest contribution to the atmosphere through the viscosity of his rolling and swirling guitar playing, thick with piquant coarseness. Here we see the true irony of the band, since though they deliver their messages most successfully in an erratic, frenzied manner onstage, the more introspective and spacelike moments shine brightest on CD.

So it’s a shame that most of the album isn’t made up of the latter, since the louder moments of WASSFD come across as either unconvincing, unmoving or just irritating. The Ginger Chai, for instance, is one of the most annoying songs I’ve heard in recent memory, a mid-paced, unbothered rock track with Pika bleeting “chai chai chai, chai-chai chai-chai-chai” like a little girl in a tantrum for seven minutes. Oscar No Hope is a 25-second, pointless, dissonant guitar splurge and AWA No UTU is four minutes of Pika whistling and babbling like a Priory in-patient. Done on occasion, moments like this could have spiced up the album with some interest and excitement, but they’re just too common: after several tracks the feel of the thing does get slightly tedious and we’re left craving for those longer, more involved pieces where the band get really successful at sculpting their own presence in the world of psychedelic rock.

What did we expect though, this is experimental music after all. Not every experiment is a success though – and Pikacyu*Makoto are still very much going through the iterations. I would love to see these people live, but listening to their recorded output is another matter entirely. WASSFD is a speculative work of experimental noise rock, and it feels like it. The Japanese have always been world leaders at the bizarre, but these days it takes a lot to make even the bizarre special. In a genre that has seen it all, Pikacyu*Makoto have what it takes to stand out, but this disc is purely a disc of potential, an detonative charge that never quite explodes as planned. Ironically, enforcing some musical boundaries – rather than trying to escape them – could make a second disc far more absorbing.

Rating: 2.5/5

Aderlating – Spear of Gold and Seraphim Bone Part I

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

I’m fed up with being told what Hell sounds like. Since Lustmord galvanised the trend in 1990, the dark ambient scene, if you can all it much of a scene at all, has been replete with works celebrating the essence of the netherworld. Spear Of Gold And Seraphim Bone is no different, a 63 minute journey through the bleakness and despair of Hell from your arrival until your supposed departure, though without so much of the subtleties of Lustmord’s Heresy. Aderlating has an altogether different approach to dark ambient, mixing it in with a generous portion of noise and soft static, and though the linear notes to the one-sheet describe the album as being black metal, such a definition needs to be silently and disrespectfully trodden on like an incessantly whining mosquito. Spear Of Gold And Seraphim Bone contains no metal in it whatsoever and though there may be the odd double-kick beat hovering in the background for added atmosphere, such an inclusion does not warrant the labelling of an entire subgenre. The album is most certainly and undoubtedly a work of ambient, and a successful one at that.

Those fans of the medieval peasantry, and I know you’re out there, will be particularly intrigued by the album’s artwork, featuring a plague doctor in an almost Christlike pose, greeting us and beckoning us through to the start of our journey; perhaps the Black Emperor at the Temple’s Gates of which the first track speaks. Aderlating uses the Sanskrit word for Hell, Naraka, and it is this place in which we are to spend the hour of the album’s entirety. Spear of Gold is the first part of a duology, the second half to be released towards the end of the year – and maybe by part II a lighter, more ethereal side will be revealed.

Knowing Aderlating though, such a reality may be wishful thinking. Mories, the man behind Gnaw Their Tongues and De Magia Veterum, is more known for his harsh and abrasive depictions of ambient than delivering a serene, introspective feel to his listeners. Indeed, the Hell that Aderlating ensconces us in is a cursed, anguished environment with little respite from the torments within the Gates. The general tone of the album is one filled with noise, blackness and the hopelessness of impending inevitability, the inevitability that some of us will end up in this place, whatever exactly it is, and that this aural visitation will be our Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

“Black Emperor At The Temple’s Gate” gives us a glimpse to the horrors within. The Naraka is an immense, deep place. Strangulating, swirling mists asphyxiate us through the darkness beyond the Gates while low down, exhausted screams ricochet off its inescapable boundaries. Screams not of a harsh, terrified, panic-stricken fright as in Elend’s Umbersun, but those of a tired acceptance of perpetual fate wherein all identity of the individuals has been removed and what remains is mindless creatures; thoughtless, beaten organisms forever living the rest of their days in dulled torment and agony.

“Descending the Naraka” is a much more precarious affair. The screams of the tormented are behind us, enshrined forever at the Gates as a warning to what we’ll experience ahead. There is only the atmosphere of apprehension surrounding us as we tread onwards, the sense of deterioration and impairment building as a chorus of voices rises around and pleads with us to save them and ourselves from perpetual inclusion. Maybe our path is already fated.

The title track is a much louder, unforgiving affair as we find ourselves in the thick of this blackening environment. The tumultuous rhythm of drums builds around us, beating to a steady sacrificial rite of torturing spirits. It’s now an ongoing, relentless work of pain and suffering, as we join souls at the mercy of their own life-experience and influence, only at the beginning of their exhaustive journey of affliction. “A Burial on The Slopes of Mount Sinai” is a much more ambient affair as we leave the battery of the ritual behind us and explore a quieter place, but one still filled with disdain and the stale essences of interment as wraiths cry in the far distance, tied to a world of purgatory and perpetual deprivation.

“Engel Der Wrake”, the longest track on the album at 18 minutes, mixes the harrowing intensity of distorted, menacing vocals with the quieter, more sinister feel of awaiting judgement. After the sentences have been passed, we are left in the noisy, static realm of the inner Naraka with the sounds of glitching, contorted existences flickering their lives away in darkness. The howling wind beyond reminds us of the futile ephemeral nature of our own lives and how susceptible we all can be to the perpetually of a similar existence due to our own choices, or lack of them.

Spear of Seraphim Bone is very much a work of portent. It is one which requires several experiences to fully understand and connect with. This is no incidental, casual wandering into a trendset dark ambient habitat, but an environment with texture, activity and history. It presents the impenetrability of noise as being as close in its extreme to the impregnability of ambient, mixing two degrees and bringing them together as a resultant being in the same way in which the universe is its own diptych, its own dichotomy, a stress and tussle between dualities. In crafting such a work, Aderlating is not merely following a path of dark ambient cliché as much as projecting an already-existent plain and giving us a window into it. While these frightful dissonances may make us recoil in revulsion, there’s something all too familiar to their consciousness.

Rating: 4/5

Syndrome – Floating Veins

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Those familiar with Mathieu Vandekerckhove’s work with Amenra will be attuned to the grittier, coarser and rougher sounds of his sludge-metal oeuvre, redolent of a more realised, darker side. Syndrome, his newest and most experimental project, is yet another feather in the peppered cap of Consouling, the excellent Belgian label specialising in all manner of blackened aural magnitude. This time round, however, Vandekerckhove stands apart rather than shoulder to shoulder with his labelmates since Floating Veins is a more ethereal, brighter, and charming foray in the territory of ambient post-rock with only the occasional nod to drone music slotted in for completion.

Consouling says that Floating Veins ‘explores the very boundaries of introspective music’ which, though I’d like to think that introspective music had no boundaries to explore, makes the music sound a little more tame than it actually is. Syndrome succeeds in affecting us with a multi-layered scaffold of sounds stretched across various genres from barbed, wire-thin guitar-led post-rockish freneticity; whirring, buzzing drones with steady, pulse-quickening drums beneath, and air-light, wispy ambience. Vandekerckhove’s exploration into these areas is always presented with beauty and class, blending together successfully any theme employed, whether it be the droning guitar of the title track; the shimmering, post-rock drenched euphony of Project5 or the darker, more sinister industrial feel of the album’s finest moment, Absence.

Floating Veins is an all-rounder which manages to straddle many areas and conquer them convincingly, at least from a technical perspective. The sounds are fantastic, no doubt, but in spite of my playing this repeatedly there is still something lacking for me, some sense of energy, some sense of reality, some sense of ingenuity. These days it’s all too common for many bands to be able to delve into multiple areas and pull them off well, but what Floating Veins lacks, if anything, is the ability to carry and transport you to somewhere else. It just doesn’t. The sounds alone are not enough to elevate this to something greater, it’s as if there’s just no heart there.

Vandekerckhove, for his part, will disagree. It could be something to do with the release’s length, 30 minutes just isn’t long enough to generate the intense, long-burning kind of atmosphere that melodies of these genres demands. It really takes time to be soaked into music of this sort and, at half an hour, it’s over all too quickly, we feel as if the rug has been pulled from under us and there’s been no time to get carried away, whether we wanted to be or not. Make no mistake, Floating Veins is an accomplished piece of work and though it sounds fantastic, it doesn’t feel so – in fact, it doesn’t feel of much at all. There’s a lot that could be done with this project, and maybe next time round Vandekerckhove will be able to nourish Syndrome with the enduring richness of which it is currently starved.

Rating: 3/5

Nocturnal Fear – Excessive Cruelty

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

“It is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it,” declared General Robert Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Not a sentiment that’s likely to be shared by Detroit thrash metallers Nocturnal Fear, who revel in showering their visual and lyrical content with all manner of war-related imagery, and they make no secret of their unfailing support for the US military in any situation. Excessive Cruelty, NF’s fifth studio album, does nothing to deviate from the group’s staple ethics, especially judging by the latest batch of promo pictures featuring new band members Witchhammer and Warmonger [you see?] looking very at home in their Rob Halford-inspired daywear, as well as various other references to guns, killing and everything the rest of the world remembers and loves the USA for. Nocturnal Fear may well not be a notorious thrash metal band, but they seem to move in notorious circles.

I’m not a massive fan of the new thrash revolution. Thrash metal, for me, mostly belongs in the 1980s and many of the bands who attempt to pull it out of that homestead do so with little creativity or innovation. NF are no different in this regard, but they do pull off their music technically well, albeit with a large degree of uninspired songwriting. One thing’s for sure, they know how to thrust out an intense and threatening barrage of death/thrash metal with excellent guitar-work, vocals, drumming and some seriously meaty production to match. In the wave of contemporary old school thrash metal, NF carry the torch for the revolution with pride, nous and technical mastry. This is likely to be some of the heaviest thrash you’ll have come across, fusing the genre nicely with death metal but always staying safely on the right side of the line.

So it’s a shame that Excessive Cruelty doesn’t do more for itself than it could. You’ll spend a lot of time marvelling at how good the drumming is, with Witchhammer’s consistent pummelling of the double-kick pedal at Mach speed to give it that extra-heavy edge and Slavehunter’s sweeping guitar riffs, but after a while the formula does tend to get a little tiring. Excessive Cruelty doesn’t like giving its listeners much in the way of variety with the album being one long string of uber-aggressive thrash cavalry-fire, and though it may be cathartic and de-stressing, there’s nothing in the way of detail or differentiation between numbers. While there are moments where the band blend in some quite beautiful melodic guitar sections such as in the surprisingly beautiful solo in World War 3, or towards the end of Human Shield, these moments are too infrequent to raise the album to the level of anything unique or special.

Thrash metal has a long and highly-skilled history and with 2011 already seeing some gems emerge from the likes of Essence and the excellent Havok, Nocturnal Fear are in good hands; Destruction and Artillery have also brought fresh meat to the table, so there’s a lot for thrashers to get their teeth into this year. However, what made the truly excellent thrash metal bands like Realm or Coroner was the ability to bridge the gap between heavy, gritty thrash hardness with an introspective, almost crystalised lucidity of deep emotion. NF have no interest in the latter, so while there’s plenty of standard aggression to satisfy most thrash fans, those looking for something a little extra won’t find it here. Excessive Cruelty is exactly its namesake – an unrelenting, merciless juggernaut of thrash metal savagery – just like so many others.

Rating: 3/5

Phurpa – Trowo Phurnag Ceremony

03/07/2011 § Leave a comment

“There fell upon my ear the holiest sound I have ever heard” recalled Huston Smith, describing the first time he heard Tibetan overtone chants. Before 1967, the Western world was unaware of the practice, and to a large extent still are. Huston Smith, a US religious scholar on a visit to a monastery in the Himalayas in the mid 1960s, was awoken one morning to the sound of deep singing. But what was different about this chanting was not only the incredibly low vocal sound, but the fact that the monks were using several tones – in the same voice.

I wondered for many years whether it were possible for a person to sing two notes at the same time so, in effect, to be vocalising a chord. That quandary has now been laid to rest, since the practise of overtone chanting, which began in Tibet many hundreds of years ago, does exactly that. Overtone chanting is the ability to sing a very low note, but to use harmonics over the top so that multiple notes are produced at the same time. In some cases, it’s possible for up to nine notes to be produced simultaneously by a choir.

This was a very secret practise until Smith brought it to the West. It was then dubbed a “vocal miracle”. On listening to the choir, one would assume that the monks are singing in parts when in fact each individual is singing a first, a third, a fifth and additional further harmonics, the overtones being initially ‘sensed’ rather than directly heard, representing the way in which the spiritual realm can be sensed by us in the causal realm.

Several decades later, the project of Phurpa came into being when Alexei Tegin from the Fabrique of Cardinal Art began his studies in traditional ritual music. He ventured into Iran, Tibet and Egypt to do so. I, for one, would love to know more about the Cardinale since in spite of research I can cede nothing about it, my only assumption being that it’s based somewhere in France. Nevertheless, it was not until 2003 that the Phurpa project began to take shape.

This release is the first full album from Phurpa, comprising of eight tracks and over an hour of traditional ritual music. The songs themselves are long, slow and drawn-out numbers with deep chanting which puts many other ‘ritual ambient’ bands to shame. There are no synths, no inorganic instrumentation, and most of the music is conducted through vocals alone, though occasionally traditional instruments are heard as well. If the listener is unaccustomed to overtone chanting which, let’s face it, will be most of you, the sound will come across as unusual at first, if not highly unsettling. The resonating bass tones have a dark feel to them, but to truly understand their concept and function is to understand that they are, in truth, anything but dark.

And this is an important point. This original recording of Trowo Phurnag Ceremony was first issued in 2008 and now, three years later, is being reissued on Steven O’Malley [Sunn O)))’s] label, the only immediate difference between the two releases being that the 32 minute “Conferring Empowerment and Self-Transformation” has been split into two halves in the reissue. Of the ensemble, O’Malley says the music “unveils many spectral illusions and invigorates evolutions in sonic possibilities” which means little to me and sounds mostly nonsensical. Still, doubtless O’Malley’s involvement in this reissue will bring these sounds to a much wider, and arguably younger audience. Whether that audience understands the true intention behind the music is unlikely, with the religious essence of the sounds potentially shooting over many of their heads. To the new listener, these droning noises will come across as homogeneous, but this truly is ritualistic music in the genuine sense, and in a time when a lot of ritual ambient is based on summoning dark feelings or entities, the intention behind Phurpa should be completely the opposite, paying homage and respect to an age-old Eastern tradition and pledging its fealty with accuracy and authenticity.

In truth, if we are going to listen to ritualistic music, then guiding ourselves towards projects like Phurpa should be more in line with our concern. Rituals should be organic, and only the most effective ones adhere to that standard. Phurpa’s homogeneity may not hold the interest of many a seasoned ambient listener, but concentrating on the textures and prayer that its harmonics intonate would be doing it the greatest service. Aside from the work produced by the Helixes Collective and possibly Herbst9, Trowo Phurnag Ceremony calls into question the legitimacy of nearly every ritual ambient project I have heard. It stands as a proud, timeless monolith to ancient religious tradition at the beginning of the 21st century.

Rating: 4/5

Machinist – Of What Once Was

03/07/2011 § Leave a comment

In 1960, one hundred people were invited to the Galerie International d’Art Contemporie in Paris to witness a surreal piece of aural and visual modern art. On offer was the new performance by Yves Klein, the Monotone Symphony. This presentation consisted of twenty minutes of a ten piece orchestra playing a single note, then a further twenty minutes of silence. How can you keep an audience’s interest for twenty minutes when they’re doing nothing but listening to one note? Good question. The answer is simple: by getting three naked girls up on a stage and telling them to roll around in blue paint. It would certainly work for me. And this – the aural aspect anyway – has been the inspiration for the first track of Machinist’s “Of What Once Was” release, Mono Tone In D.

Surprisingly, this homage works works rather well. What Mono Tone in D doesn’t try to do is be cleverer or better than us right off the bat. The first three minutes of the track are indeed its namesake, little more than an unadventurous, plain D monotone, but then the subtleties begin to come in. Other notes start to dance around the piece’s main tone, playing with it and lightening its stale, stolid heaviness; then the darker, heavier rushes of some unseen metallic machinery begin to whirr somewhere off in the background. Dark drones move somewhere far underneath, and chains clank on disused metal drums. Plucked guitar harmonics surround us while the drones squirm alongside, intensifying an increasingly dark experience until an ethereal spirit raises us up above the darkness and we drift away into a calmer, stiller ether.

The second piece of the album is the longer, and arguably more intricate Of What Once Was. This 30 minute improvised track concentrates more on guitar drones, but they’re never too heavy or suffocating to detract from the lighter ambience of the album’s atmosphere. The track opens with a slowly enveloping thick hum which rises and subsides and demands our attention before warping into a melodic, otherwordly stellar euphony, but which still retains its own sinister edge. Slowly, eventually, further droning melodies accompany the euphony like voices, singing and heightening the experience into a chorus. However, soon enough, the beatified voices succumb to an unspoken pain, and groaning into a dull dirge, drift far off into the infinite as we are left with the crashing of waves and the sound of falling water.

The album clocks in at 52 minutes, a respectable amount for a two track offering, but not an unusual length for the drone world. Of What Once Was is all about the subtleties: subtleties which you must allow it to give to you. Repeated concentration is really the way forward here, since this album does demand you to respect it with the same degree of concentration as the finesse with which it was created. Of What Once Was may still be a fledgling when compared against greats such as Maeror Tri or Troum, but there are flashes or brilliance here which at least put it in the same race. There’s a lot to be discovered within its layers: a lot of mystery and a lot interpretation. The myth, as Klein said, is in art.

Rating: 4/5

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