Hello and welcome to what will, with any luck, become a regular feature focusing upon ambient, drone and other assorted outsider transmissions.
As the name might suggest (assuming you’re well versed in Stars Of The Lid song titles), the focus will be predominantly upon those musical genres regularly derided by my flatmates (and, I suspect, 99% of the world’s population) as “droning noise crap,” but in truth that could mean anything from Merzbow to James Ferraro. At the very least, I’m aiming to sift through the monthly proliferation of ‘ambient’ LPs, CDRs and cassettes, pick out a few gems, and then abuse adjectives like ‘ethereal’ and ‘textural’ for another 500 words.
On that note, it seems only appropriate to begin with Going Places, the latest (and purportedly final) record from Yellow Swans, out now on Type. Even for a group as prolific and creatively restless as the Portland duo (since disbanding in April 2008, their ‘posthumous’ releases alone have probably reached double figures), ‘Going Places’ feels like a climatic statement, taking the arcs of distortion which characterized their last major full-length, 07’s At All Ends, and embellishing them with a neon, kosmiche glow. In fact, underneath the layers of sonic detritus lies a melodic, almost dream-pop core, albeit one imbued with some pretty intense downer vibes.
Scope the whole album for yourself right here
Following a quite astonishing run of releases throughout 2008 and 2009, Type’s apparent effort to bankrupt me shows no signs of abating as we enter the new decade, and while Going Places’ along with Richard Skelton’s glorious Landings covered here by DiS’ very own Armchair Dancefloor are likely to garner the most attention, Plays Wagner Volume One by another Portland native, Pat Meherr, undoubtedly deserves a mention. Operating under the moniker Indignant Senility, Meherr deals in a decidedly nihilistic variant of William Basinski’s haunted loops by filtering the portentous strains of Wagner compositions through an industrial batch of tape hiss and static to create a profoundly unsettling, and self-consciously hauntological, musical experience. Or, if that previous sentence screams critical bullshit to you, how about some “shitty pathetic aimless glaciers made from classical music?”
At the risk of this becoming a Type Records promotional feature, it would be remiss of me not to mention the improvised live set that Erik K. Skodvin (A.K.A. Svarte Greiner) has recently made available for free download here. Mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri, this is a 45-minute trip that’s been responsible for regularly transforming my bus ride home from work into a pitch-black rumination on the apocalypse. If that sounds like hyperbole, then scope the set for yourself from 19 minutes onwards, for that, my friends, is the sound of the gates of hell opening up and swallowing us. Skodvin will be playing alongside the equally brilliant Simon Scott (ex-Slowdive) and William Fowler Collins (check the video below) on March 14th at London’s Café Oto. Miss it at your peril.
Finally, a deserved mention for a new release from the relentlessly fertile Barn Owl / Elm / Evan Caminiti axis, in the form of Higuma’s Den Of The Spirits. A limited vinyl edition of 200 on the impeccable Digitalis imprint, this is some of the most intensely narcotic desert drone you’re ever likely to hear, with fractal vocals and acoustic raga meditations wrapped in a dense blanket of reverb. Sold out at source, but sure to hit the distros very soon, this will undoubtedly go down as one of 2010’s essential releases.
Clips can be found here
That’s it for now, but with (comparatively) massive releases from Eluvium, Fenn O’Berg and Loscil scheduled for the next few weeks, 2010 could well represent a watershed moment for the ambient and drone scenes; I hope you’ll join me again for the ride…