Ryan Huber is the American solo instrumentalist maverick whose work we’ve been following for many years now, and while he releases many records as Sujo or Olekranon, the Harken (INAM RECORDS 137) CDR is under his own name. None of his trademark steam-hammer heavy rock beats for this release, which is a more restrained and chilling sojourn in strange dark ambient territories. For fans who enjoy his over-loaded signature sound, tune in to ‘Blind Coup’ where the layers of processed abstractoid grind are flung together like ferocious storm-clouds and powerful tornadoes from a lost Norwegian myth, and pressed into a glass jar. Bleak, menacing, thickened and textured drone. Packaged in a hand-decorated brown paper envelope, and only 23 copies were released. From 19th June 2014.
Equally “encoldening” and freezingly atmospheric is the split album Subterranean Transmigration (PHAGE TAPES PT:208 / ANNIHILVS APEX 2014-02), a showcase for two American solo dark-ambient menace acts Regosphere and Xiphoid Dementia. Both creators explicitly desire to explore “desolate, frozen, psychological landscapes”, according to the press notes which also hint at cavernous spaces in the earth’s lower depths. In fact, Andrew Quitter – the fellow who calls himself Regosphere – captured field recordings from The Devil’s Icebox, which is an underground cave in Missouri, and layers these into his harrowing and grim recordings. His grindey and droney synth pulsations are certainly unsettling, and his surface sound is rich and appealing, but like so many operating in this genre, he seems unsure as to how to organise or compose his materials so that they might have more force. Xiphoid Dementia, i.e. Egan Budd, also brings field recordings into his work, but rather than attempt to capture the ambience of an underground cavern to conjure Saturnine visions, he creates samples of rocks, earth, and metal, perhaps using these natural materials as rough musical instruments, and leans less heavily on his synthesizer set-up. His tracks too are textured and rumbly, and his sounds are equally lush, but he somehow leaves more space for the listener to breath. Consequently, the mind is able to explore his imaginary tunnels and crevices in more productive manner than we are the cluttered soundscapes of Regosphere. Xiphoid Dementia also seems to offer more than one emotional response to the work; at times we feel desolate and doomed, but we also feel intrigued and inclined to probe into this mysterious world, like a latterday Arne Saknussemm. And if the music of either musician fails to trigger the requisite moods, the album photographs should do the job; almost like treated images from National Geographic with additional blue tints added by Photoshop with creepy touches of the supernatural pasted in. From 3rd June 2014, sent to us by A. Foisy of Locrian.
In same Foisy package we have a full-length (78 minute) broad canvas widescreen epic of solemnity by Requiem, the solo guitarist / musician David Graham from Pittsburgh who’s been recording under this guise since 1996, with many releases on (his own?) label Requiem Recordings.. His Provenance (COUNSOULING AGENCY CAGE0004) is not simply aiming for droney atmospherics, as there are tunes and anthems appearing throughout the glacier-paced music, and a thematic coherence to the work established by the artworks (an insert of a bare tree and its roots) and the poetic text which speaks in a quite heartfelt manner of finality and pointlessness, while indicating that “only ghosts know the truth now”. Stately guitars, synths, and ritualistic percussion all do much to draw us into this fully-realised and haunting world of futility and doom. The vocal additions of Joan Hacker and Melissa Kelly enhance the mood greatly on ‘Abeyance’, almost creating a sort of nocturnal version of Popol Vuh; and there’s a heavy apocalyptic spoken-word section on ‘Addendum Two’ which is enough to make the Book of Revelations seem like light reading. I admire the skills with which Graham builds his textured layers and creates his flawlessly burnished tracks, aided to some degree by a James Plotkin mastering job and the recording skills of Theologian, which ensures that Provenance glistens with the blackened perfection of a subterranean lair of which the walls are pure obsidian. But I struggle to keep in time with the unvarying leaden pace of this portentous release, and am left frustrated by the musical monotony; through the whole 78 minutes, we rarely depart from the one root note and all the tunes are pitched in the exact same minor key. However, this may be a deliberate strategy to bring home the abiding messages of despair. The “petal style” package, with obi and insert, is quite nice.