Review: Recent Dronarivm Label Releases
Three albums from far away (to me) arrived at studio wajobu yesterday, and my immediate reaction (aside from the excitement of getting a package from Moscow) was when I opened the envelope, I was very pleasantly surprised with the design approach of the album packaging—a heavy semi-gloss stock tri-folded card (about 5 by 7 inches) with really nice layouts, printing and graphics—simple, elegant and compact.
The three albums are the latest collaboration by Machinefabriek and Minus Pilots entitled Signals, the Aquarius project (a collection of 5 minute works by artists including: Federico Durand, The Green Kingdom, Pjusk, Melodium, Simon Whetham, Loscil, Marsen Jules, Fabio Orsi, Pillowdiver, Machinefabriek, Hakobune + Hiroki Sasajima, Francisco López, Pleq + Mathieu Ruhlmann and Yann Novak) and Darren Harper’s release from late 2012 entitled Passages for the Listless and Tired. What drew me to Dronarivm (at first) was Darren Harper’s album.
Dronarivm Label – Aquarius
DR-09 – CD: 70 minutes - Limited to 200 CD copies and digital download with extra track
Aquarius, being a sign of the ancient zodiac, representative of one of the many artificial constructs of arrangements of stars in our Universe and on Earth symbolic of undulating waves of water, and in color an aqueous blue. This album is largely the sound of comfort and peacefulness with only occasional hints of stormy seas or skies (as in Untitled #288 by Francisco López). There is a broad sonic presence in each 5 minute track that belies their brevity, each telling a complete and unhurried story. Each track is somehow connected by imaginary links to another and perceptions of the overall whole change if listening is done in the shuffle-mode. There are so many strong pieces on this album, but I had the strongest connection with the incredible pulsing depths of Loscil’s Hemlock. This would be an excellent choice for lying down in the grass on a clear dark night with a pair of headphones and staring into the night sky and as the eyes adjust to the darkness, the many secrets of the great depths are revealed.
Machinefabriek and Minus Pilots – Signals
DR-10 – CD: About 34 minutes - Limited to 150 CD copies and digital download
Signals is the latest release from Dronarivm. Like signals drifting in and out on a shortwave radio far off into the night, Minus Pilots and Machinefabriek have created a sense of mystery and discovery with intertwined and layered sounds. At first constructed with arrayed loops of electric basses created by Minus Pilots and Machinefabriek blending woodwinds, strings and voices into a loosely woven fabric of sound; the result at times being like conversations between unlikely strangers. There are moments of quiescent contemplation contrasting with more vibrant exchanges akin to morning-songs of birds reacting to the rising Sun. Sonic moods shift throughout Signals with more dulcet tones appearing at about the mid-point of the piece before more active coils of sound emerge later. With careful listening, distinct instrumentation can be gleaned from the recording, but blurring the mind yields a gestalt that is like imagining a room full of people (perhaps strangers sitting quietly in an airport lounge or waiting room) with their thoughts being transmitted into the ether, many passing into the nothingness, yet some connecting.
Darren Harper – Passages for the Listless and Tired
DR-07 – CD: About 45 minutes
Limited to 100 CD copies and digital download
This is the album that brought me to the Dronarivm Label. I don’t recall how I was drawn to it or what landed me at sampling this album, but it must’ve been a lateral association somewhere in the neighborhood of six degrees (or in this case six passages) of separation and then attraction. The effect of this six-part album is calming, ethereal and curiously grounding. At times it growls (gently, as in Second passage) and often drifts into delightfully pastoral zones (like the closing Sixth passage). There are sections with a sense of flying slowly, just above a landscape in a vividly colorful slow motion dream (think Kubrick’s 2001) with deep almost motionless grooves reminiscent of parts of Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon. At times, the sound reaches, and reaches far, as in Third passage—it just keeps stretching ever closer to an unattainable edge and still onward for more. Despite being created from improvisation, Darren Harper has achieved a well-planned and deeply satisfying journey. There is a soft resonant afterglow present in this album.
Note: If you live where I do (far away!), it might take a couple of weeks to receive an order from Dronarivm, but trust me—it’ll be well worth the wait and patience. I look forward to more releases.
The Darren Harper CD was a direct purchase and the other two are solicited reviews.