Material Object & Phonaut: Indiana Drones

indi_dronesInitially created to be released on Pete Namlook’s FAX label, this collaboration between Material Object and Phonaut instead became a tribute to the electronic-music legend, self-released after his death in November 2012. On his bandcamp page, Material Object notes Namlook’s deep influence on his style; in this hour-and-twenty minute journey, tribute is paid in full. What awaits here is simply mesmerizing. Part 1 opens with a mash of disparate sounds that clash and tangle slightly before resolving themselves into a sort of cadenced pulse. Inside of five minutes, the solid basis is laid down, a patient dynamic is established, and all that’s left to do is let go and listen. Background sounds turn to washes, and the washes take on a kind of softly mechanical feel, the hum of unusually quiet machinery. Part 2 stands out as the shortest piece, an interim between the first half hour and what’s to come–45 minutes of absolute blissful immersion. The spiral into kiss-your-brain-goodbye begins as Part 3 slips in on white-noise pulse, glittering pads, and a fast pseudo-beat meted out in small thumps of sound. That is one of the great parts of this excellent disc: there are no beats per se, but the duo do an amazing job of turning layered, repeating phrases or pulses of sound into rhythmic elements. Your body responds to them regardless. They are as irresistible as they are insistent and understated. It’s a very cool feeling to be in a slightly dissociated mental state, courtesy of these misty drones, and to be aware that you are, in fact, swaying just a bit with the rhythm. This slides neatly into Part 4, which at first flattens the pulses out into long drones, still heavy on the hissing mist. There’s a physical shift that happens with the listener here, a movement from the active response of moving with the music and into a passively responsive, meditative state. I recognize that this happens with many ambient/electronic works, but there is something more emphatic about it here. The transition, in both music and listener, is simply beautiful. The drones here are warm and fluid, the current easy and comfortable. A mid-track change brings in bright chords and a chant-like vocal sample. As a rhythm slowly re-establishes itself, the piece becomes a bridge to the final movement. I really like how the pair use a simple bass pulse to finalize the transfer. Part 5 complete the shift with a nod to Namlook’s techno/IDM background. This one can’t really be called a drone. Rather, it cranks along on sequenced notes in an almost unchanging, Morse Code-style cadence. Under it swirl warm pads and subtly moving parts. The sequencing becomes hypnotic and brings us back to that active involvement in and response to the sound.

This is an amazing release. The sound is deep and very dynamic, one of those examples of how making good drone is not an exercise in simple tonal stasis. The infusion of rhythm is handled perfectly and the ride is superbly modulated. I would own this just for Parts 3-5; that stretch alone should be considered required listening across the community. The more I have listened to this, and the more time I have blissfully lost within it, the more I have come to appreciate it. Do not miss this release.

Available at Bandcamp.

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