Live-looped trombone ambient. Don’t hear that too often. But if Quiet Horn’s The Last of the Sun is any indication, maybe we should. Jeff Bernhardt presents 80 minutes of solid low-volume ambient on this release, turning out sounds that most listeners would be hard pressed to identify as trombone. Using the horn as his primary source, he finds and spins out new sounds, many of them small but vital, and works everything into thick layers of drone that never fully shed that almost reserved tone trombone creates. Each of the pieces here is freshly drawn, a new and interesting vista each time. It’s not a pleasant place we’re taken in “Everything Gets Cold in the End”—nor should it be, given that title. This is a stretch of murky, miasmic drones and grim textural treatments. Bernhardt uses the sound of his breath in an excellent way here, its rasp and hiss amplifying the overall creepiness and despair. Mildly unnerving and very effective, with a lot of sonic imagery to gaze into. “Mountains Melted Into A Molten Sea” is a very listenable exercise in taking a phrase and mutating it over and over, layering its new forms on top of one another while still leaving its core recognizable. Give it a few minutes to establish its base, then listen as the shifts and changes slowly work their way in. The complexity increases and the sound deepens. This is the longest track at 18 and a half minutes, and it will take you under. Mere moments into “Hydrogen Fuels Our Time With the Sun” I was certain the track belonged on another album. It opens like a knob-and-switch electronic music piece, spastic blurps and bloops of sound ricocheting about in some kind of awkward sequencing. Minutes later, with all those ping-ponging sounds masterfully and almost inexplicably massaged into longer, smoother strands that cross and weave and sigh and float, I find myself fully involved. In the number of times I’ve listened, I can’t pick out the exact moment when the changeover occurs. It just does, quite organically, and suddenly I’m deep into a wholly other thing than I started with, and it’s excellent. This has become my favorite track on the release.
Do yourself the favor of getting up close with this release. Between the interlacing of the loops and the multitude of small sounds and textures Bernhardt throws in, you don’t want to miss all that’s going on. Like the good ambient album it is, however, this is also one to set to low volume and let it ride. Even at its strangest, it exudes calmness and warmth. Drone fans will dive straight into this. A very good release from Quiet Horn.
Available from Bandcamp.