Off Land, (Drone Variations) Volume 1

offland_droneI imagine I might theoretically get more out of Off Land’s (Drone Variations) Volume 1 if I went back and listened to the source tracks–this is the first of an ongoing collection of revisions intended to reconsider and “deepen” the original works. Thing is, I’m actually quite content to listen and enjoy without being encumbered by the need to note or understand the differences. That may not look good for a reviewer, and it may not be what musician Tim Dwyer had in mind, but having put forth a very quiet set of pieces with his typically subtle hand at the controls fully on display, he pretty much sets me up to do just that. Over the course of several listens, this has found its slot as a low-volume loop. Dwyer keeps things on the very warm side of the sound, content to draw his notes out into long strands, then nudge them just slightly to change their tone. Layers slip into place, then glide back out to reform. Dwyer avoids getting into the rising/falling breath motif somewhat typical of beatless ambient, preferring instead to keep a steady line when changing notes. The drones mutate organically, with glacial deliberation. Although there are eight tracks on this album, it feels like one long, deep piece with the barest of pauses. There’s no major shift of tone or approach from one to the next, and the overall flow is quiet and smooth. Infrequently, Dwyer drops in a bit of an attention-getter—a sound in “(Auk)” that oscillates between your ears, a somewhat sharp rise in tone on “(Turnstone)”—but even at that, it sounds and feels more like passages in a long-form work.  While I would not necessarily call (Drone Variations) an overly impressive album, I would call it an extremely effective one. It creates an extended period of quiet listening, and maintains its unobtrusive manner throughout. Just a suggestion to Mr. Dwyer: you could probably make a killing by retitling this and marketing it as a mediation album. (How about Om Drones, Vol. 1? Feel free to use it.) With its silk-and-gossamer flows, hushed voice, and never-ending landscapes, this is an album designed for sitting quietly and just existing with the sound. Well worth checking out, (Drone Variations) Volume 1 will find a home alongside your favorite beatless ambient works.

Available from Bandcamp.

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