Seismology is a blazing dream-light that invites you to stop at the nearest intersection. Slow down, let the airy drones overtake you. As soon as the opening tanned drone descends all you can really do is park yourself, be still and appreciate it for its kind, glowing aurora of perfect beauty. The light hovers in its colour-dashed display of red, apricot and lime green and is in no particular rush to change. Alex Smalley (Olan Mill) is a dab hand at this kind of ambient drone. It feels like it’s destined to levitate, transcending conscious thought as it rises ever upwards. Keung Mandelbrot, on the other hand, seems to concentrate more on abrasive textures, glitch-ridden surfaces that skitter about in wild, almost uncontrolled movements. You’d think that the two would cancel each other out, that they’re not alike in the slightest, but you’d be wrong – perhaps they share something in common after all.
Smalley and Mandelbrot are highly respected experimental musicians in their own right – musicians who are somehow able, through their ability, creativity, patience and effort, to leave their own tinted fingerprint on both the electronic and ambient genres respectively. When they join forces, it’s a game-changer. The two musicians are close to hero status. Gotham;s Mandelbrot delights in the chaos of crime and the gritted streets of static seem to cry out for a hero. They get a response from Smalley’s celestial drones that somehow seem alien in their light and weight, but are wrung right through with a deep understanding and devoted expression toward human emotion. They fight a fierce war against mediocrity, the desire to settle for something less than substantial in an age of inflated excess. Together, they are an explosive combination.
The opening, celestial drone slowly burns and then fades away, giving way to a slightly abrasive static. The duo mix together their decorated textures and produce seamless changes from one to another. Clear, open sky harmonies flirt with the music for a while, but then the cloudy experimental tones roll in, and they’re always shrouded in the snow of white static. The static seems to destroy anything in its path, as if it were the son of Godzilla rampaging through a major American city. The striking contrast between the coasting ambience and the distorted electronic synths is clearly there, but its well-balanced nature ensures that the music’s skeleton never feels disjointed; if anything, the transformation is a sweet dislocation.
The amber halo of drone is a warm visitation, but the beautiful opening spreads its wings and flies away. Synth textures snake around the music, and a cooler static then bubbles and gurgles, coughing up specks of dirt through its electronic lungs. The harmonies come back in, but they have undergone an amazing transformation; they enter through the doorway covered in static, their once thin steps now dripping with the lo-fi, intermittent interruption of grainy distortion and the chrome sound of dead end cables. Black wires carry the music through obsolete dial up connections and a rainy covering of mud. ‘Linear Elasticity’ and its fierce static erupts out of the music and is the only track not to feature Smalley’s beautiful drone. Perhaps it isn’t safe to land as static showers the sound like an outpouring of lava over decaying rock. For the most part the drones choose to open up the music, and this is the only kind of repetition you’ll find on the album. Elsewhere, the demented melody of ‘Geophone’ squeals out of a twisted instrument, the sound of bagpipes echoing down an asylum’s corridors. It rises to a feverish, vicious pitch, glowing in power, grinding against the steel door. This is the kaleidoscopic climax, where the calm lights glitter in the face of the gritted distortion with a colourful, prismatic intensity.
Two musicians become one entity.
The clean tones of an electric guitar come to wash away the crimson light with a wash of well-being green. And then it’s time to wake up – the light changes colour and we ride on. Seismology has the guts to go out and explore the unexplored. Viva la revolution!