Southern Gap is Dylan M. Howe’s first release under his own name, but he’s been involved in ambient soundscape design, polluted electronics, and subtle drone-work for 10 years. This is an album where patience comes home to blossom, and over four meticulously-crafted pieces, the Portland-based musician is able to showcase great sensitivity as well as maturity.
Cold but never sterile, the drones speak of urban disintegration and societal collapse while retaining the beautiful individuality of an outsider. The buildings and spaces were left vacant and abandoned, with only an airy, draughty drone continuing to blow into the empty room. And even when buildings and spaces are populated with people, they can still feel cold and unwelcoming because of the people and their non-existent or stilted interactions.
Southern Gap’s rainy drones are cool to the touch, not so much unfriendly as they are indifferent to the new kid on the block, and the welcome mat in this community needs a severe dusting. In this world, neighbours don’t talk to each other, and people are disconnected from one another even though they occupy the same space. It’s part of a wider problem, and that’s reflected in a strobing synth that appears blurred and distant and distinctly grey.
This is music for buildings that no longer serve a human purpose; a sonic embodiment of spaces that were once meant for dwelling
A tight, diminutive rhythm populates ‘Ritual For Conscious Dying’ while a faded atmosphere swirls around it, thoroughly fatigued and enduring the recital of its last rites before the lights go out. The overcast notes are reminiscent of Loscil’s music, evoking emptiness, isolation, and an out-of-season chill. ‘Ninety Blocks’ is a lengthy organ-drone which could’ve emerged from the likes of Claire M. Singer or Sarah Davachi. Patience and tonal-focus is in the spotlight.
Every sound matters as gentle, warped oscillations flutter in turbulent air. ‘Courtyard’ adds a vicious, recurring distortion which helps to demonstrate the falling away of order and communication, and the music’s borough is an uneasy one. Flanked by ugly towers and distasteful designs on one side and indifferent people on the other, despite the silk-like quality of the drone, its inner-city music is drenched in constant rain.