I have listened to a pretty fair amount of Ryan Huber’s music, and it continues to amaze me how much emotional content he is able to convey using extremely minimal constructs. His style isn’t for everyone; in one moment it will be raw and industrial, but stripped of its chrome and pretension, cut back to reveal the churning inner workings, dirty and greasy and pulsing and just a little dangerous. In another, it’s a sparse thing made up a a dust storm of tiny sounds, clicks of static and the rustle of artificial wind. In either case, it’s hypnotically engaging and thick with the kind of detail that makes you need to pay it close attention. Rule from Shadows depends mostly on the smaller-sound side of the equation, and listening to it is like watching delicate alien machinery go through its paces. Listen to the jittery clockwork that opens “Stem,” then stick with it as Huber pulls it in new directions, at one stage scraping it down to a thin hiss and the sputter of a tiny idling engine. Even then it’s got a pulse and an interlocked rhythm you can feel. A long stretch of the title track exists in this same space, a subliminal whisper of microsound crackle that’s about as next-to-nothing as you’re likely to listen to. The sounds begin to fill in, literally (aurally speaking) trickling into the flow, then get spread out to an incredibly quiet drone. The changeover is so smooth as to be almost imperceptible. It’s one of those things where you become aware, somewhat randomly, that the tone has shifted. But not all the offerings here are small. “Horaj” blasts into your head with a shout of static and a bold, meaty bass rhythm pulse. It’s like blocky, squared-off techno, bristling at the edges. There’s a twist in Rule from Shadows that comes with “Darker Path” and continues into the closer, “Maxwell.” The machine is switched off; the churning slows; the aggression subsides. We are left with the resonant hum, the aching quiet, the drift of hard industry winding down. Darkly ambient, these two tracks let Huber show his qualified hand at the controls of more meditative stuff. It’s not all bang and thud with him. Sometimes it’s beatless flows cut loose to ease away from the weight. Small sounds fleck the flow, keeping your attention drawn close. I do wish the two flowed together more smoothly. “Darker Path” fades, but cuts out a bit soon at the end. Melt them together, and it’s 15 very nice ambient minutes.
Going into Rule from Shadows, you need to be ready for the near-silence that’s never silent, the insistent barrage of the barest fractions of sound taking hold and working their way deeply into your head. It’s not likely to sit well with all listeners, but in the scope of Huber’s work, it’s a great addition to his catalog. It takes courage to let your work run this thin and this small, and it takes a hand as skilled as Huber’s to make it compelling.
Available from Bandcamp.