A Journal Of The Dark Arts
shadows & light
Darker Half by drone poet Lee Noble is a wordless meditation on the complex and contradictory emotions the autumn summons. Sometimes sweet & yearning, dark and menacing, Darker Half is like holding a Halloween seance, gazing into the abyss, and waking up with a candy corn hangover.
Darker Half is built from four lengthy tone poems of swooning organs and diffuse drones. Lee Noble gets us started with “Halloween Kiss”, whose title suggested the autumn connection, which is as sweet and lingering as the name suggests. There are no shadows here, just the bright life of hope, as oscillators waft like incense on the breeze, inviting you to inspect the contours of their coils, like the caterpillar’s smoke dragons. Rippling harmonics sound like lights reflecting on dark water, like sitting on a pier outside of a happening party, perhaps the location of the eponymous kiss. Hues of darkness begin to creep in towards the ending, setting the mood or the A-side closer, “I’m A Skeleton”, the darkest offering here.
If “Halloween Kiss” is the soundtrack for lights on dark water, then “I’m A Skeleton” is like being plunged into the deep end. It’s disorienting, there’s no telling up from down, as yr life flashes across yr nervous system, as planes and air raid sirens sound in the distance. Maybe it’s a good thing yr underwater, because it sounds like the waking world is coming to an end. The silhouette of a tibetan ritual horn creeps in with shadowy footsteps, calling the mournful congregation. This is music from the deep, dark unconscious, speaking in riddles and dream logic, splaying yr eyelids with phantasmagoria, like something from “A Night On Bald Mountain”. As these cautionary drones sound around me, the air seems to grow heavy and congeal; muffled shrieking and knocking on the wall emanates from the room next door. This music opens a portal; guaranteed to make yr autumn more magical. Sounds begin to flicker and detune, about 2/3 of the way through, unsteadying the ground beneath yr feet, shaking you to yr foundation, with the most subtle of seismic shifts.
B-side opener “Paper Mask” seems both ancient and timeless, like some spectral, fog-ridden astral realm, beyond temporality and causation. Hunched and antlered figures dance in a slo-motion circle, as crystal singing bowls radiate concentric spheres. Barely there sequencers bring back the sensation of the surface of water, but this time it’s oil-slicked, opalescent, phosphorescent. A rhythm emerges for the first time on the record, ratcheting up the tension, the sensation of something happening. I wonder what it is? The tape begins to shred, the air goes all wonky and soft around the edges, like the director has just smeared the lens with vaseline, for an impromptu dream sequence. The Halloween vibes are made overt for the first time, with the introduction of a spooky organ, but only briefly.
Lee Noble brings us back to dry land and daylight with “Sick For A Week”, the lengthiest outing on the record. It is the sound of convalescing, of coming to grips with yr fever visions, trying to stitch the non-linear images together into some kind of narrative. Organ tones float gracefully in and out of one another, like a psychedelic light show, in a truly poetic and abstract way. This is one of the greatest strengths of ambient music, is the ability to combine sounds, tones, and harmonies in a way that is difficult with strictly acoustic music. We are able to access new combinations, new textures, new harmonies, and as a result, new visions in thine mind’s eye.
This is an absolutely exquisite release, that i can’t get enough of, and comes with the highest possible recommendation. Like many noise/drone based musicians, Lee Noble is prolific, and these incidental releases paint an interesting picture, between the higher profile “albums”, like the difference between a chamber work and a symphony. This limited editions are an endlessly imaginative way for artists to explore their dreams and desires, while honing their craft, and are, at the very least, as essential as the major albums.
I’m quite excited to be featuring some older, archival material, along with newer releases of note. One of my main goals with Forestpunk is to feature as much music as fits the aesthetic, regardless of release date. Hardly anyone will write about older releases, unless they’re being re-issued, or have some kind of anniversary, which just isn’t that reflective of what it is really like to be a music devotee, today.
So i will continue to bring you as much poetic, imaginative, subjective, dark and maddening art as my fingers can channel.
So what are some of yr favorite autumnal/Halloween-related releases? Leave us a comment!
Lee Noble – Darker Half