This is a compelling double-header by two of the most interesting US sonic experimenters, released on Jason Lescalleet’s marvellous Glistening Examples label. It’s austere, detailed and fantastic-sounding, as you’d expect from any project involving Alan Jones, who has mastered several key underground releases over the past couple of years from his Laminal Audio business. Occasionally, it evokes the background hum of the universe and other times it explodes into vintage electrical violence.
Of the four tracks on offer here, two are loud and two are quiet. I don’t know whether Rogers – who tends towards to lower key, drone-oriented approach usually – and Jones, who’s noisier, contributed a couple of pieces each, or whether they collaborated on all four tracks. But, despite a slightly programmatic feel (quiet-loud-quiet-loud-ish) the record hangs together pretty well, with a kind of post-human, Rise of the Machines vibe, so maybe it was the latter.
We start quietly, with Repetend/Mistones. At first, given the full-on assault of the track that follows it, I thought this was a Francisco Lopez-style prank, a wave of silence to lull us into a false sense of security before the shock and awe coming after. But I reckon this would have been a kind of cheap gesture and to be honest I don’t think that’s the effect they’re going for. And anyway, there’s lots to get to grips with once you’ve tuned your ears in. It’s beautiful and desolate, just a bare low-end rumble over which a soft-edged electronic tone meanders. It sounds fatigued, exhausted, its smooth edges the result of constant friction, of being ground down by ceaseless pressure.
The cut to Ferrograft is abrupt and, at first shocking. Saw toothed and buzzing, with a full-on wasp’s nests fury, it’s a juddering electronic blast, with sudden changes in frequency adding a sense of crazed drama, disorientating like successive jump cuts in a film. It sure keeps you on your toes but it’s addictive too, driving you back to successive listens to try to figure out some order, as if it were some complex chord progression that you could just figure out if you played it one more time. (See also: Have You Got It Yet?)
Tedium, Betided revisits the low-key aura, with a similar rumbling occupying the first two-thirds of the piece. For that final section, however, it’s as if someone’s hit the power up key and a blurry field of static seeps in before opening out into a hard, gleaming field, a droney bottom layer criss-crossed with static.
That drone continues into Parallax (Final Movement). Relentless, hard and shining, the minimal, almost flatline drone presents a seemingly endless obsidian horizon. Or a submarine, lurking on the depths, systems shut down to the bare minimum to escape detection. It’s an inspired move to keep things so pared down, and the track slowly takes on a La Monte Young-style devotional quality, which belies the fused materialism of the rest of the album.
Repetend, Parallax is a great example of how a collaboration can exceed the sum of its individual contributions and is another slam-dunk for Glistening Examples. It has an awesome sleeve design too. Recommended.