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V/A - Record of Shadows Infinite

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Artist: V/A

Album: Record of Shadows Infinite

Label: Crucial Blast

Review date: Jul. 6, 2004

Drone, like noise before it, threatens to become one of those voided (and, thereby, avoided) musical designations, invoked so indiscriminately and incessantly that the signifier ceases to really signify anything at all. This, admittedly, is the fate of many of the world’s words, and it’s true too that few incisively innovative musical artists, living or dead, are capable of operating wholly untouched by drone’s profoundly primeval and pantheistic legacy. Because, as Maryland’s Crucial Blast staff scientifically inform you in the booklet of their contemplative compilation, Record of Shadows Infinite, the roots of drone go back a long, long way, to a time, actually, before roots existed. In fact, according to NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (via Crucial Blast’s research team), sound waves heating gas in the Perseus galaxy cluster have been emitting a drone for approximately 2.5 billion years. The note they’ve been riffing? A deep, deep B-flat.

The 10 artists and bands gathered together on this record tend towards the academic, minimalist end of the drone universe, but the results are anything but dry. In fact, the only aspect of the album that isn’t powerfully persuasive at imparting drone’s massive magnificence is, ironically, the hyperbolically lofty text–sprawled across the jewel case’s interior – written for this exact purpose. But, ignoring, “[The drone] is sung by choirs of electric angels rippling out of the depths of speaker cones, and its glory is praised in the deafening summer chant of the cicada…[it] is the unheard song of existence,” the pieces picked provide plenty of visceral, hypnotizing evidence that the drone is alive and, well, eternal.

Ruhr Hunter’s deliriously good opening composition, “In Memory with Blackest Wings I Fly,” unfolds with the grave, grim gravity of a night(mare) spent lost in musty catacombs, an eerie epiphany of dark, descending keyboards and the sudden swell of panic-stricken strings. Ex-Maeror Tri ambient outfit Troum and Jewelled Antler collective kings Thuja each offer up unsettlingly sparse – if a bit standard – meditations in their usual styles (cold, Teutonic nothingness, and empty, improvised field-recordings, respectively), while Unearthly Trance paint it blacker, bringing out the doom in drone; “Scarlet” scrapes Sunn O))-lit funereal chords within a drifting, drumless chapel of evil.

Other contributors play it purer, choosing to drone the way refrigerators do: inanimate, insidious, and endless. Scott Jenerik, Amon, Beneath the Lake, and Chaos as Shelter all explore spacious, mechanized pulses, subtle, steady sound waves sustained across 5-, 6-, 7-minute distances. And though the “song,” as it were, always remains resolutely the same (choruses, of course, being antithetical to drone), the works’ constancy allows for a certain sonic subjectivity, whereby the drone’s tone can be alternately calming or cacophonous depending upon the force of frequency chosen by the artist, and upon the listener’s discretion – or lack thereof – with the volume knob.

By Britt Brown

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