Loren Nerell, The Venerable Dark Cloud

nerel_vdcLoren Nerell revisits an older track and expands upon it on The Venerable Dark Cloud. Stemming from a 23-minute song originally released on a mini-disc on the Amplexus label, this new release more deeply explores Nerell’s signature blend of shadowy ambient spaces, primitive percussion, and the unique tones of the Indonesian gamelan. Much of this album goes by like watching thick incense smoke waft across a moonless night sky. The sense of ritual is very strong, and these sonic meditations open the gate to a wide realm of imagery. “Dark Horizon” brings us in slowly on low drones, bits of percussion, and vocal snippets with a call-to-prayer feel. Field recordings layered into the background enrich the overall atmosphere. On “Eclipse,” which follows, we get the first appearance of the gamelan as it lays out a swaying cadence against a steady rhythm on drum. The gamelan’s bright, odd voice is compelling as it hypnotically repeats its line. “Another Cloud” follows suit later, falling into a repetitive pattern between chimes and drums as the background continues to move like mist. It starts a deep immersion that takes us completely under as we’re cut adrift on the long ambient flow of “Tenganan Grove.” This piece has a great humid, organic, lost-in-the-undergrowth sensibility right from the start. All the percussion from the previous tracks drops away in favor of nature sounds and long, murky drones. Within its first two minutes it gently takes control of your breathing. The track is just six minutes long but it’s absolutely the deepest six on the album and feels pleasantly longer. At its far end, it rises back up into “Within the Cloud.” The gamelan returns, bringing rhythm with it, and a sense of passage. Toward the end of this track, Nerell veers into sounds that are more assertive, if not jarring. which brings me to the one place on Venerable… where he loses me a bit. Although I am sure Nerell has a reason for including them, I could honestly do without the rooster and the storm sounds in “Ablution.” Both, but especially that rooster, are the only things that pull me out of this flow. The good news is, I fall back into it right away with the 24-minute closer, “Lambat Lane.” A dense cloud of pads, drones, and distant vocal samples at the start, it grows to include soft chimes and the curling call of didgeridoo. It swallows time as it goes, the sound swirling into a smooth vortex. A brilliant piece. Throughout the album, flute from Sasha Bogdanovich alternately soars and slithers through the shadowy proceedings, trailing a touch of sacred-music influence in its beautiful wake.

The Venerable Dark Cloud is a shadow-enshrouded meditation, a slow-moving journey into fully realized strange sonic places that offer our mind’s eye a lot to consider. Its rhythmic elements balance perfectly with the long drifts, bringing that primal/tribal touch I enjoy without moving the album fully into that realm. This is more about the mystery, the space inside, the secrets. A very strong offering from Loren Nerell.

Available from Projekt.

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