I had not heard of Bart Hawkins, but the label describes it thus: “Using only patch cables, oscillators, and a host of modular sound shaping devices, Hawkins guides the myriad machines with skill and purpose, molding the unrestrained sonic energy into mind-bending journeys of creative expression. Sweeping tones and harmonic drones set moods that range from peaceful and dreamlike to edgy and bleak, while occasional chirps, squelches, and pulsing patterns call to mind transmissions from distant alien worlds or the soundtrack to a sci-fi classic.” Sounds like a good time, so let's get into it.
I had just finished listening to a stack of albums from Spotted Peccary, so I was expecting a similar sound. It is similar in that it is heavy on drone and synth, but this was miles ahead of most of the other discs I reviewed. Let's start with the opening track, Dream Meditation." This is beautiful. Bird sounds mixed with some of the loveliest drone this side of Troum. Layers and layers of sound keep it interesting and engaging. 21 Pulse Eclipse is a 17 minute excursion into sound. The first third is grinding, sawtooth drone, the second third is an exercise in repetition, as patterns shift and evolve, and finally it all dissolves together. The rest of the album continues on this trajectory, playing with sound to see what he can get out of it. The second half of the disc is a lot of experimental synth work that was pleasant listening. It concludes with Dream Meditation Part 2, which is more gorgeous drone with snippets of voice that evade recognition. Overall, this was well worth listening to fans of drone music, and I will be quite interested to hear what Hawkins comes up with next. This album weighs in at around 73 minutes.
I was previously unfamiliar with Russell's work, but the label describes the album thus: “Throughout Echo, textured and minimal atmospheres are layered with haunting effects, slowly morphing into melodic passages that develop from near nothingness to substantial and meaningful sonic narratives.” Sounds good; let's dive into it.
Echoes sets the tone with some pounding percussion and heavy drone. Radium keeps this going with piano and noisy ambiance. Clattering metal, sawtooth drone, and xylophone enter the scene to add depth and variety to the composition. Indeed, this formula continues throughout the disc, as heavy drone provides the base of the track while other elements are added throughout to keep it interesting and engaging. There are some that take a different approach, such as Odjek, which is spacey ambient with a lot of synthesized bells, and Abandoned, which opens with field recordings of bird calls. Overall, this is some solid dark ambient drone with a lot of complexity. Well worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 61 minutes.
Tom Eaton’s day job is “studio engineer,” working with Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, so one would expect that he has a good ear for sound. According to the label, “How It Happened is a love letter of sorts, or more accurately a musical expression about love in which Eaton reflects on his own deeply personal and sentimental experiences, inspired by the various ways in which love has impacted his life.” Sounds good, so let’s get into it.
When writing reviews, I like to think of one word that describes the music, kind of like an extreme elevator pitch. For this album, that word would be “delicate.” The tracks are peaceful and intricately put together. Soothing pads lay the groundwork for lilting synth and piano lines. This would be right at home in a soundtrack full of sentimental memories. If you are trying to evoke a mood, this would be one to reach for. This album weighs in at around 70 minutes.
Like many of the artists on Spotted Peccary, I was unfamiliar with this artist. The label describes it as “a psychedelic musical journey deep into the heart of Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta. Guided by rich ambient textures, manipulated field recordings, traditional instruments, and a blend of cultural and electronic percussion, the album offers a surreal sonic sojourn into a mysterious land defined by the power of a river and its influence, where nature has always been the dominant force.”
This is a nice mix of field recordings and synth work. For me, the standout track was “Imperial City of Drone,” which is a good exercise in dissonance. It’s heavy without being oppressive, like the aural representation of an oncoming storm. There is the occasional percussion thrown in, as with “A Bend in the River,” and the gong that kicks off “Laukoo.” Overall, this is a pleasant trip down the river. If you are looking for a trip down the rapids, this is not the one for you. On the other hand, if you want to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the river, this would do the trick. This album weighs in at around 58 minutes.
I was unfamiliar with this New Zealand based artist, but he knows a bit about woodlands, having completed a degree in botany. The liner notes state that “Woodlands is a reflection of the pleasures of walking through leafy glades, sheltered under the spreading boughs of forest trees.”
A walk in the forest can be peaceful and beautiful, but a turn of the light or the shadow of the overhead canopy can make that same forest seem sinister and ominous. You can suddenly feel completely alone as the animals that have been watching you make you aware that you have invaded their home and that you are the outsider here. Adrian’s music takes a similar approach. One minute you are listening to a pleasant droning composition with field recordings of birds chirping and ethereal voices in “Fields in Evening Light” and the next minute the clouds have begun to amass overhead and the sun is darkened in “Lantern Walk.” Despite the moods evoked in them, what all of these compositions share is a heavy use of layers of drone to create atmosphere. The other elements are often sparse and simple, but there is enough variety to keep it simple. For me, the standout track on the disc was “Moonrise,” with lush pads over chimes and bells and what sounds like animals making noises. Overall, this is a pleasant listen and worth checking out if you want some calm, soothing music. This album weighs in at around 67 minutes.