A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Aetheric Records’ stunning new compilation is a perfect storm of drone, lovely ambiance, and harsh noise, in honor of Delia Derbyshire’s classic White Noise project.
A storm can have many associations, depending on who you are and where yr from. In Chicago, where i come from originally, the tension would build and build all day long, as the sky darkened to an unhealthy mustard color, with people gradually getting more and more on edge. Eventually, the sky would open up like a sieve and everyone would breathe a collective sigh of relief, even as yr being pummeled and pelted like some pre-diluvian half-angel.
In New Orleans – one of my first wayposts after leaving the Midwest, by way of contrast – there is no gradual graceful buildup, no accumulation of tension like a teenager’s pent-up sexual frustration. It could be clear skies, clear sailing, and all of a sudden the wind picks up, the pressure seems to rush out of the air like a deflated balloon. It is quick and violent – when you feel the wind begin to pick up in N’awlins, it means get inside as fast as you can, and try and pick somewhere you like, because you’re going to be there for a while.
In my current home of Portland, Or., which is the most associated with storms and weather, there is a surprising lack of the epic builds and climactic breaks of other weather systems. While we are known for our rain, and it does wet for half the year here, it’s a gradual fine mist, like living inside the produce section at a supermarket.
These are just three associations, showing just how far of a range talking about the weather can have. And that’s not even considering intergalactic or extra-dimensional storms.
The Aetheric Records roster apply a wide range of drone, ambient, noise, and sound collage techniques to a field recording of a storm to sonically illustrate these mental associations and then smash them – placing you in the white hollow heart of a weather system.
An Electrical Storm is a compilation, but an insanely well-curated one – flowing together into one interesting speculative soundscape. A number of Aetheric Records’ traditional attendants – So There, Slow Thaw, April Larson, The Heartwood Institute, Kek-W, black_ops, – along with some new names i didn’t recognize, like Burl and Stapperton. The entire collection is outstanding, needing to be heard from start to finish, but there’s some stand-out tracks as well.
So There set the pace with ancient hollow field recordings, like wind sweeping through a milleniums-old miles-long mausoleum, with a brief musical moment of glockenspiel, like the tolling of the hour, also giving a creepy but whimsical old horror vibe. White Feather’s “Nocturnal Storm” is so subtle, it’s barely there, a creeping pulsating outline of warm synth ripples, like an eclipse or watching heat lightning on the horizon in the desert. “Nocturnal Storm” has that same lovely but emotional haunting emptiness of Eno’s Apollo Soundtracks, a beating heart floating in eternity.
Kek-W, of Hacker Farm/19f3 Records fame, shows just how far source material and concept can be stretched, beginning with a raging storm of static power noise and mechanical, abyssmal shrieking, until settling into a very accomplished grinding downtempo beat. Just goes to show that whatever Kek does, he does well, which is why it’s such a treasure to have him working in the underground, creating new shapes, sounds, and forms, constructing new worlds instead of recycling the old.
“Decaying Dream (electric storm mix)” by perennial Forestpunk favorite/friend April Larson is another stand-out, with its creeping faraway misty strings and woodwinds, sounding like a phantasmal orchestra swaying like seaweed, as heard from the bottom of the ocean. “Decaying Dream (electric storm mix)” doesn’t build, so much as float, swimming with phantasmagoria in the meanwhile.
Something similar could be said of The Revenant Sea’s “Charge Separation Cluster”, which pulses and hangs like some extra-dimensional fungal being, between space and time and form and function. Wave after undulating wave of harmonic feedback ebb and flow like amber tides on some alien planet. The waves bring with them bristling cubes of flotsam & jetsam from time to time, as Matt Bower’s drones are stitched together with sparking, hissing, noisy field recordings.
This last point is what i wanted to talk about the most, in regards to An Electrical Storm. You just don’t hear as much of this kind of music these days (or i don’t, at least, and i spend pretty much all of my time looking for such things). Drone, ambient, and noise make for a powerful unholy trinity, and yet people don’t seem to be exploring the possibilities enough. Like The Revenant Sea’s track, for instance: his tones and drones are well-crafted and put together, glowing and beating in league with titans of the field (and i’m not just saying this) like Tim Hecker or Oren Ambarchi. I lovelovelove this style of music to the depths of my vacuity, but it can, at times, sound a bit too slick or digital, failing to leave a lasting sensory impression.
The Revenant Sea take those tones and then roll them in some iron filings of pure classic harsh noise moves, like getting too close to a sparking Jacob’s ladder, sending some ASMR shivers down the listener’s arms.
Aetheric Records always have a very distinctive and unique field recorded aura about their albums. You can practically feel the weight of the air surrounding the sounds. The crumbling, crunching dictaphone fidelity gives the proceedings a documentarian feel, the aural equivalent of a found footage film, which makes for a deeper, more imaginative, and more relatable listening experience.
As usual, as always, Aetheric Records’ posse have turned their tape recorders and DAWs into intergalactic portals, to rip through the air and transform the environment into something surreal, artistic, and strange.
And, also as usual, i am posting for a duality of reasons. First and most importantly. You need to hear this record. Immediately. I’ve listened to this thing five or six times since it dropped yesterday, and am still lapping it up like blood and cream. Secondly, i call upon our collective experience to ask: what else sounds like this? I’m totally obsessed with the kind of airy, tape-recorded, field recording noise seance you can hear on Aetheric Records. If Jandek were starting out today and making dark ambient or noise music, he’d be on Aetheric Records for sure. I’ve found the work of Jeph Jerman, who made a similar kind of cassette crunch collage with his Hands To project. What else is there?
Troy Schafer: FB/@TroySchafer/soundcloud/bandcamp
The Revenant Sea: @TheRevenantSea/soundcloudz
The Heartwood Institute: FB/@heartwood9/soundcloud/Bandcamp
Benjamin Shaw: FB/@bnjmnshw/bandcamp
April Larson: @IvoryLabyrinth/soundcloud/bandcamp
Broken Shoulder: FB/@ShoulderBroken/soundcloud/bandcamp/Tumblr/YouTube
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