By Nicholas Szczepanik
Nicholas Szczepanik has made quite few long form drone pieces thus far in his career. Just reading his discography, it’s clear by the length of the pieces he’s released that he’s made a concerted effort to master these longer narratives. “Entre los Arboles” is his latest entry and it shows his efforts to work toward that level of mastery have paid off in spades.
Broadly speaking, the challenge with longer form instrumental pieces is that the pacing has to be just right. This is particularly true if they are ambient or drone pieces where a sort of mood or feeling is expected to be elicited by the music. Move too fast and the aspects of the music that allow it to simply wash over and encompass you are risked by the jarring movements. Move too slow and your whole narrative risks stasis – and while it might be dulling for a while, there’s a good chance repeated listens won’t be favoured by the listener. The thing about Szczepanik’s work for the last few pieces he’s released is that he has demonstrated an understanding of pacing and calculated movement time and time again. And while 20-30 minutes may be considered long form by some, Szczepanik’s works often cross the 40-50 minute marks.
“Entre los Arboles”, which translates loosely to between the trees, is a a piece that thrives on tension from its opening notes: the highs seem static, almost threatening movement at any moment, and the lows grumble along. It’s an ominous start to things. But as new figures and forms enter the equation weaving themselves in between those highs and lows, there is never a complete sense of comfort. One can almost sense that when Szczepanik refers to being “between the trees” he is likely referring to being lost in those trees rather than, say, enjoying a nice walk on a winter’s day. Yes, the music offers an ethereal sense of beauty, it’s just that it demands the listener stay on edge all the while.
On Szczepanik’s Bandcamp page he makes a point of noting that while the length of “Entre los Arboles” qualifies it as a full length album, he doesn’t view at as such – it is a single long form drone in his eyes. It’s an interesting notion to resist that what is deemed a full length is not determined by the amount of time it lasts bout rather the ideas therein. Maybe Szczepanik feels that there is not enough movement, enough parts to add up to some larger whole, for Entre los Arboles to qualify as an album proper. But whatever it lacks on big ideas and bold strokes, it more than makes up for with its sustained sense of mystery that keeps the listener dialled in for the full 45+ minutes. And with the level of mastery he’s shown with these long form drone pieces, it’s more than enough to get any fan of drone music eager to hear what he has in store for us next.