Pulling up memories of certain well-known purveyors of electro-shamanic grooves as it goes, Disturbed Earth and Shane Morris’ collaborative effort, Suburban Catacombs, took an interesting route on its way to carving a unique path its modern interpretation of the lower world. The music here began as a four-part live set by Morris that included (and I’ll indulge myself in italicizing my favorite parts) “a small percussion battery consisting of an udu drum, woodblocks, bottle caps, Roland SPD-20 electronic percussion, and the base of a microphone stand for a bass drum.” Morris gave the initial recording over to Dean Richards (aka Disturbed Earth), who then added, among other things, guitar and harmonium run through tape delays, along with the usual alchemical processing that makes him a very sought-after partner in sound. The end product is an hour-long headfirst delve into shadowy spaces and humid sonic atmospheres that leaves its impression on the cave walls of your mind. Morris goes thick on tectonic-shift drones and the rich percussion. The duo may state that the disc is about “what goes on under suburbia,” but the echoes reach all the way back to the primitive. Throughout the piece, this borderline grimness is balanced off nicely by natural field recordings peering through. In the earliest parts of the disc, Richards’ nylon-string guitar is an earthy, solid touch against a sort of growing fog as Morris begins to weave his strands. Later, the guitar will return, Richards’ calm noodlings twisting quietly and reassuringly against Morris’ churning, misty dronework. Suburban Catacombs resolves itself by turning upwards and lighter in the end, the kind of soft space that allows the listener to drift back, retaining the resonant feel of the journey. This is a wonderfully dense recording; every moment is filled with finely honed intermixes of sound. Morris is becoming one of my favorite practitioners of the electro-shamanic sub-genre. His journeys are about total immersion as he blends the simple acoustics of percussion with fresh takes on ambient and drone. And Richards, well… There’s a mighty good reason ambienteers are queuing up to have him take a crack at their creations. His touch is impeccable.
This is a disc to leave on for hours. Deep listens garner magnificent payoffs. Much time will be lost wandering these Suburban Catacombs.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.