Loren Nerell, Slow Dream

Slow Dream is a quartet of long, shadowy meditations from Loren Nerell. While never delving entirely into a dark-ambient space, Nerell does infuse these deep pieces with a certain sense of being cut off by the sound, immersed in drone and unable to reach the surface. It’s superb headphone listening, never raising its voice above a slightly sinister whisper as it ushers you down into yourself and spaces beyond. Nerell’s library for this disc started with his field recordings of Indonesian and Balinese gamelan. He ran the sounds through various processing programs and other means of manipulation to create a fresh batch of tones and textures that he quietly melts together. Because the source material is acoustic, the processed output retains a resonant remnant of its organic starting point, tucked into the otherwise otherworldly flows. As the opening track “Mentation” eases through its 29 minutes, a single recognizable gamelan chime rings solemnly, the tone marking time’s passing as Nerell’s mist-at-midnight drones fill the space. This is a fantastic half-hour of ambient that works to fully submerge you  in Nerell’s intentions. Once you’re here, you’re not coming up until it’s over. It’s interesting to note that Nerell’s sounds are complex but not as densely packed as “dark” ambient tends to be. There’s no crushing weight at work here. His drones feel breath-light, paper wings of sound that hush and sigh past you in small, unhurried packs. Following “Mentation,” the voyage continues through the title track, a piece that borders on feeling isolationist, a lulling drone surrounded by hissing winds and cavernous echo. “A Sense of Presence,” the second-longest track, layers in more foggy grey drifts and a growing sense of the unease that comes with being just slightly lost. But while the feel is present, it’s distant, a worry that never quite forms but which makes you keep your guard up. You find yourself trying to peer through the mist as it rolls past, the high end like an uncertain breath, the low end the rich rumble of an earthy, open maw. This is a gateway to a different place. “Persistence of Dream Memory” is a comparatively shorter piece that ends the journey. From the start it is lighter in tone, high pads belying the penumbral landscape you’ve just passed through. Nerell lets us resurface slowly; we glide upward, patiently. Sometimes we hear a chime. We have been returned.

More than once I’ve had this playing while laying in darkness, headphones on, and I have to say, I’ve gone places. This disc will open up some interesting vistas in your mind in such a setting. With the seamless flow and the unbroken ribbon of dark impressions that run through it, Slow Dream offers a different kind of meditative experience. In leaving the more recognizable tones of his beloved gamelan mostly behind in favor of their mutated, time-stretched and reconsidered descendants, Nerell allows himself to work with a deeper sense of mystery, of guided displacement, and of fearless sonic exploration. Let this one run on repeat for hours.

Available from Projekt.

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