drone

Review: Pendro/Figmentland

Pendro is the name of Tim Jones’ experimental music and sound design project. He released his latest album, ‘Figmentland’, in March. It’s unapologetically experimental, but that’s no left-handed compliment; it’s a fiercely creative album, full of textures, cinematic sound-staging, and even emotion. It’s also an album that rewards repeated listens as familiarity with the basic shape allows some of the deeper layers to be exposed.

The album opens with ‘Stalking The Floating Brass Jaws’, brash, startling and uncompromising, effectively setting the tone for what is to come. The track includes repeating sequences of treated metallic clangs, one of several motifs that will re-appear several times during the course of the album.

The following track, ‘Black Moths’ is rhythmic and insistent, with burgeoning, distorted beats and almost dub-like echoes trailing off into the ether. The track ends with chilling synthetic wails and screams. Moths that flew too close to the flame maybe.

‘Over The Fire Glade’ that follows, starts all slow and swirling, with textures overlapping. It’s worth noting that the whole album warrants headphones to truly appreciate the ingenuity of Tim’s sound design, but particularly in this piece, as themes and motifs chase each other from side to side and front to back. The tone here is ominous, almost monstrous. This soundscape is teeming with wildlife, and possibly not all of it friendly.

The highlight of the album is the epic ‘Turquoise Lagoons’. The piece starts with a bed of gamelan-like bells, chimes and gongs, which are gradually blended with industrial scrapes and hisses. Several minutes in, the gongs give way to clarion alarms and bird-like shrieks, and the track starts to turn dark and foreboding. Like emerging from a tunnel, towards the end the gamelan starts again, this time backed by soothing major chords. The track ends peacefully enough but it’s definitely been a journey.

Just as the first track set out Tim’s stall, the final track ‘Descent To Silver Valley’ is a fitting close to the album. It’s probably the most accessible track on the album, a meditative flowing drone, with numerous textures all interweaving and rising to the surface. Then, just as you begin to think the album is closing with an air of optimism, apocalyptic bass chords fade in, unsettling and desolate. Happy ending denied.

This is an album that demands active listening; it’s not background music for cooking or dinner parties. But for the listener who can dedicate an hour, they will find their investment very well rewarded.

Review: Ian Haygreen/The Tides Erase All Things

‘The Tides Erase All Things’ is the latest release from Ian Haygreen, self styled “Classically trained pianist who buggers around with electronic music in several genres as the mood fits”. The mood in this instance is revealed in a footnote that indicates this release is ‘Droneseries #1’; it’s a long-form piece comprising a single track weighing in at a stately 43 minutes.

The world of drones is a broad church and I don’t feel we really have the vocabulary yet to properly describe and differentiate the various styles and approaches… but if you think that’s going to stop me then we clearly haven’t met. So as far as ‘Tides’ is concerned, this is very much at the ambient and accessible end of the spectrum, so if you are of a nervous disposition and not sure whether drones are for you, don’t worry, there are no road drills or bursts of radio static here.

The piece starts with swirling overtones, synth filters rising and falling, and this motif continues throughout. The piece changes over time, but very gradually, almost glacially slowly.

‘The Tides Erase All Things’ is a thing of fragile beauty; Ian Haygreen’s tides suggest an arctic sea, desolate and remote and cold. The music is largely in a minor key, with several ominous touches; nonetheless the mood is contemplative – danger is there, but alluded to, not signposted. For all the bleakness of the soundscape, the listener’s journey is not downbeat or depressive,  but thoughtful and reflective.

The best way to enjoy ‘Tides’ is to succumb to it, to wallow in it, inhale it. This is music that rewards your investment and your patience; as with much drone/ambient music, it is as much about the texture and the detail as it is about the broad strokes and to fully appreciate the music you should immerse yourself as far as possible.

Put some time aside and listen to this beautiful, moody piece. You can thank me later.