A flock of rich guitar textures vie for attention in the three tracks that make up Etokle’s intriguing debut CD, The Golden Bear and Other Works. Ideas and effects come and go as Erik Tokle temperately reconfigures his drone-based sounds and field recordings. The timing and execution of such swap-outs varies from smooth cross-fades to slightly bumpier cross-fades to at least one “What the—?” moment. The jagged drop-off that hits at the 15:40 mark of the first track, “Bear Flag Revolution,” might have some sort of thematic intent behind it, but it’s a lot like throwing the gearshift into park while you’re doing 90. Which is a shame, because up to that point Tokle had been hard at work kneading the listener’s brain into a satisfied, morphine-hazy lull. (The corrugated drone that starts to rise around the 6:30 mark is a mind massage you’d pay extra for.) And Tokle can pull off an abrupt swap–at the 4-minute mark in this same track he makes a similar leap, but that one feels more like taking to the air suddenly. Something in the fading sound he lets hang there makes it work. He gets back on track after this later, jarring stoppage with long, high pads that warble just slightly, but I do wish that interrupt wasn’t there. The first track is the longest at 28-plus minutes; the next two are 13 and 9 minutes respectively, and each represents another side of Tokle’s arsenal. “La Mort Heureuse” starts out with a sharp, buzzing waveform drilling its way into your skull. Again Tokle uses the undulation of his drones as a hypnotic medium, the raspy contours maintaining your awareness even as they begin to juxtapose with the rise of a slowly yawning melody. I like the way Tokle keeps that more straightforward element subdued; to take it in you have to work for it. The last track, “Het Mechanichse Gebled Van der Slaap,” is the shortest and quietest of the trio, a silk-in-the-wind wash of ambient guitar that just wants you to sit back and sigh. The Golden Bear… is a pretty smooth ambient offering that isn’t content to let you give it cursory attention. There’s a lot of craft going on here, and it deserves a good deep listen. And since you only need to invest about 40 minutes in it, The Golden Bear and Other Works is definitely one to check out.
Available from Auraltone Music.