Shortwave Nights is the debut album by Hiss Tracts, a new duo featuring David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Set Fire To Flames) and Kevin Doria (Growing, Total Life). The two met in 2004 and struck up a musical friendship that led to three Growing records being made at The Pines (Bryant’s recording studio in Montreal) and a separate collaboration between the two, initially in conjunction with experimental filmmaker Karl Lemieux (also GY!BE’s current 16mm auteur/projectionist). Rehearsal tapes from a set of sessions for a Lausanne Underground Film Festival performance in 2008 became the foundation and starting point for Hiss Tracts; David and Kevin continued working throughout 2009-2013, but much of the material from their earliest session is still present, in one state or another, within the tracks on this debut album.
The sonic preoccupations of Bryant and Doria are well-known and well-documented across many highly acclaimed recordings over the past fifteen years, from the organic, group-based, semi-improvised collage albums of Set Fire To Flames to the glimmering, immersive minimalism of Growing and the more maximalist full-spectrum noise works of Total Life. David and Kevin are instrumental music practitioners of uncommon depth and intensity; Hiss Tracts opens new collaborative, procedural and narrative pathways for these fine musicians to continue exploring soundscape-based composition and production. Both are guitar players, and the electric guitar figures as both recognizable and unrecognizable source instrument on Shortwave Nights, but the deployment of a wide range of additional analog sources and signals ensures that there is no confusing this for a guitar-based drone, noise or post-rock record.
Shortwave Nights defies categorization by terms like “drone” or “ambient” and it does not easily slip into any of the predominant subgenres that have proliferated around studio-based soundscape work in recent years. Insofar as drone is a touchstone, this has mostly to do with the approach to mixing, which tends towards a transcendent/trance-inducing integration of elements into a unified, saturated, wall-of-sound stereo field. The album contains no beats or programming and very little that is identifiably loop-based or overtly sampled and sampler-driven. Occasional deployments of digital signal processing remain firmly in the service of Hiss Tract’s overriding framework and commitment to analog sources and human instrumentation. This is not an electronic record, nor does it sit comfortably at either the pastoral or spooky/sinister poles of any ambient or ‘whatever’-wave spectrum; it can perhaps best be placed within the broad lineages of post-industrial and musique concrète.
Meditative and visceral, humming with the electromagnetic atmosphere through which all manner of frequencies, transmissions and surveillances pass and collide, Shortwave Nights strikes an evocative balance between sonics captured-channeled-harnessed vs. composed-sculpted-performed, with an almost documentary rigour and restraint that nonetheless remains profoundly charged and engaged. Constellation is thrilled to introduce this new project with a brilliant debut album that has heavily infiltrated our brains and bloodstreams since Bryant and Doria first played us the nearly-finished recordings in the fall of 2013.