Energy for success hits in many ways, but I find the hill of caffeinated coffee beans, on Fis & Rob Thorne’s “Clear Stones” arrives at the plateau when atmospheric pressure creeps into the story… Leyland Kirby doom rather than The Caretaker tautology each time. Of certainty, the presence of haunting music is a pressure all by itself. The listener is over-weighed by a strong, gluing torsion that tenses each phrase like the muscles of a Worlds Strongest Man contestant. When these actions, contrive, less success beckons. When free to unshackle, emotions of platitude run ride. And that’s exactly what happens here…this, my friends, is a doom-fest of epic proportions. All the way to the whistling finish line – where a Spaghetti Western saloon scene is the exit gate rather than the opening gambit – what we truly experience on this album is a chilling world of paradoxes and militia muscled drones that are as deceased and transcendentally introspective as the feeling of pure dopamine in musical form.
The lease to become less of a kitsch atmospheric act is the sense of paranormal reality is befalling this collaboration of two minds. On the Subtext label, who released great work this past year in the atmospherics department…fairly established experimental beat technician Fis (who has work on “Autonomic” sublet Exit Records), and relative up-and-comer Rob Thorne. These two musicians hit with a weight of a dynamo, the physique of the record taking a post-rock characteristic of low-high-low, tension-release-tension, inhale-exhale-aftermath. Indeed, “Glum Herrin”, segment four, carries the bulk of an apocalyptic Thor zenith with consonance and dissonance obliterated in a parliamentary fashion by the sonic language of atonality. I do not often comment on atonality simply because, well, it often does not happen in albums I receive to review, but in “Clear Stones”, there is an Aquamarine underwater-opaqueness to the grand, grisly affair of listening to this. I can’t perfectly describe the feeling this gives me, since the lease is fully unhinged on an outstanding set of dialectically crazed sound tapestries.
From a very frightening start – dense dark drones underpinned with unpredictable phrasing patterns and scattered debris engulfed by 808-like bass groans, to that aforementioned whistle, there is a zombie referee in the building. I think this could be an excellent soundtrack to a war zone, a war game at least, and a generalised anxiety. So much rides on the mood of the record, and this is a key strength, the mood moderation. It reminds me of entering shafts in the GameCube version of Resident Evil…a harrowing, tense experience where the hairs on the back of the neck stand up like weary, weather-beaten soldiers. The two eggs – Rob Thorne and Fis – producing this album have done a good service to those needing a sound track to The Great depression. Of course, the great depression has been centred on love, and like the comparable album by Phillippe Petit on “Dance Of The Dead Hot Lovers” (“do you believe in life after love” whispered by the female ancillary) the doom-mongering is superseded by rhythm, metre, pulse and a generalised metric interlude extension, one that creates a sense of sheer finality and purpose, an effect of broken decay and encrusted paranormal logic. The whistles at the end of “Front Ear” are case in point.
“Wooden Lung” after it is more likely to get time on my ambient mixtape playlists than previously…this kind of stuff is special occasion music, it cannot really mix well with other frequencies, something sacred beyond hot air (and there is a lot of that in this steamy collage) is revealed, and the abstract mosaic undergoes some kind of symposium ethic – a hall of wonder for the sound, and nothing but the sound. Indeed, as Simon Reynolds coined, “a cathedral of sound”. Metallic drones that sound half manipulated violin, half comb filter effects unit. They cook that further action towards the end of the gaseous ducts in a kettle pipe. Generally speaking these terms are incongruous and contour until boiling point. The listener is saved from any anguish by the treasury of realised saw tooth synth hums that further information would obscure. My mind was blown by this album, I think yours, if you have any surfeit for the droning darkness, will be also. Get to treading those stepping stones, get to the clear stones of wisdom.