Mixtape: Strange In Stereo #4: Stasis
. . .
I stumbled across Antediluvian’s Revelations In Excrement at a record shop yesterday, and after bringing it home and greedily consuming it, immediately fell into a binge of chaotic black/death that only ebbed three, four hours ago. I can still feel the music, though, whether it be in the shadow of a blast beat that’s currently rattling around in my cranium, or the tense energy that’s causing me to grind my teeth whenever I’m not actively resisting. Which is why I’m glad that I had already made this mix; I needed a comedown.
Rapid, powerful movement is one the hallmarks of extreme metal, of course: beats gallop and blast, riffs shred and thrash. Exceptions are obvious and plentiful, but the rule is hard to dispute. That’s why it’s nice to slow thing down for a bit—better yet, slow it down so much that the forward momentum is halted completely.
But just because an artist plays ambient or drone doesn’t mean that the music has to be relaxing. After all, noise is just as directionless as ambient, and noise is on a single-minded pursuit of aural destruction. In the right hands, an ambient track can certainly be brutal, or bleak, or—yes—hopeful. As with metal, those emotions are amplified to an almost cinematic grandeur.
I’m not sure if these comparisons even need to be made, though. The pairing of metal and ambient has a long history, whether it be in the form of simple interludes or straight-up genre mashing. Some of these tracks share a good deal of common ground with metal; some of them don’t at all. But most of them, in some way, aspire to a similar level of extremity as any pack of gore-grinders would, even if they’re looking for it in a completely different location.
. . .
1. Evan Caminiti – “Burning a Hole Through the Sky”
from When California Falls Into the Sea (Handmade Birds, 2011)
The rest of Caminiti’s (also of Barn Owl) When California Falls Into the Sea sounds pretty much like this: a modern, softer take on the sort of solo guitar ambience Neil Young used to great effect on his soundtrack work for Dead Man.
2. Tim Hecker – “In the Fog III”
from Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky, 2011)
While a lot of Tim Hecker’s die-hards seem to appreciate his work intellectually, I’m drawn to Ravedeath, 1972 on a purely emotional level—the darkness on display at times is as visceral as that of a black metal album.
3. Servile Sect – “Burning Season”
from Realms of the Queen (Handmade Birds, 2011)
Maybe it’s because they hew closer to the black metal mold than bands with similar aspirations, but Realms of the Queen is more engaging than you’d think a black/noise/ambient record would be.
4. Crone – “The Silver Hammer”
from Endless Midnight (Translation Loss, 2011)
Although these guys (led by Jeff Caxide, former bassist for Isis) are certainly more post-rock than anything, the pace is slow enough and drums are sparse enough that it doesn’t feel too out of place here.
5. Harvestman – “Reflections”
from Trinity (Neurot Recordings, 2010)
Neurosis side projects are always pleasant to my ears, and although Harvestman probably isn’t the best of them, Trinity is still a worthwhile listen.
6. Earthen Sea – “Sky”
from Earthen Sea (Insect Fields, ca. 2006)
This is about as close to non-movement as you’re going to get. Oddly enough, this is the project of Jacob Long, formerly of the short-lived Dischord maniacs Black Eyes, whose music is as cacophonous and abrasive as it gets.
7. Locrian – “Obsidian Facades”
from The Crystal World (Utech, 2010)
The distant wailing that kicks off this track certainly does set the tone for the chaos that follows, but an unexpected ending transforms that chaos suddenly and powerfully.