Monday, August 6, 2012
Pitchfork-The Out Door
For John Kolodij, a Boston-based artist who records under the name High Aura'd, drone is "just a catch-all descriptor." But his new LP Sanguine Futures exemplifies the most classic sense of the term, offering limitless sonic atmospheres that only patiently held tones can create. Perhaps paradoxically, Kolodij's devotion to those tones opens his music up to many textures and moods. Parts follow song-like paths, while others overwhelm with a near-infinite density.
"I don't feel any limitations apply, but the challenge is to be honest to myself and to write pieces that are there for everyone," he explains. In the process, he manages to make bright beams of drone and dark caverns of echo both feel inviting. "I try to get into a place of deep listening-- an immersive, glamoured state where sound is suggestive, even if overblown and loud," he continues. "Long tones help lay a foundation, but the details, the layers, are what attract me-- overtones and decay."
Kolodij created Sanguine Futures solely with effects pedals, undoubtedly adding to the music's earthy, non-mechanical feel. Each track spreads and deepens with the inevitable pace of a rolling cloud or a curling wave. In forming these expansive pieces, Kolodij got help from John Twells, a veteran drone creator (as Xela) and drone supporter (as head of the Type label). "[He] and I went deeper, challenging each other, pushing each other and having fun," Kolodij recalls. "I wanted Sanguine Futures to be more distilled, and clarified, and dense….heavy enough to float. I was thinking glacially, and dreaming of tectonic grind."
for the full report: HERE
It’s becomingly increasingly difficult to write in any meaningful way about ambient releases, such is both the proliferation of music and by extension, the sheer amount of expended digital text. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some releases have as many purple reviews as there are physical copies available. All of which means, when a record of exceptional quality does arrive you find yourself reaching for higher superlatives or more abstruse adjectives to ecstatically describe the sonic phenomena as they unfold. What this situation does do is force you back to essentials: what, precisely, makes for a good ambient recording? And the answers are fairly simple: appreciation of atmosphere, tone, duration and architecture. And safe to say, High Aura’d (the recording alias of John Kolodij) has absolute mastery of all of these facets. Broadly put Sanguine Futures is elemental ambient music. Yet there is something more than just pretty evocation at work here: Kolodij has a granular approach to his compositions meaning each strata, each seam is carefully crafted, to the point where you can almost feel the bedrock and grasp at the clouds of vapour – these are compositions that invite a kind of habitation. On a track such as ‘Sleep Like the Dead’ there is a geological heft to the outer layers of the drone, and the heartbeat, when it comes, is bulbous and warm. ‘La Chasse-galerie’, is suitably wild, like its subject matter: a wild hunt, roaring high above the trees, peaking in a glorious crescendo, redolent of Yellow Swans at their most ecstatic. Thinking of other antecdents, I keep coming back to the Eno of On Land especially on the long eerie swamp-song of ‘Mercy Brown’ which has, at its heart, the story of an exhumation of a 2-month old corpse, a corpse whose heart still contained blood… Sanguine Futures is full of these kinds of layered readings, readings that double and intensify the already dense sonic material. Stunning stuff. (MP)
A Closer Listen
Sanguine Futures is a Rorchach test of an album, an inkblot of sound from which different ears will intuit different tales. It may be a winter album edging toward the spring, a clouded mind coming into focus, a blurred photo becoming distinct. Some have heard darkness in its grooves, others light, others a spectrum. Even the cover illustration, which looks like geography, may be something else entirely. While sanguine typically means “cheerfully optimistic”, it can also mean ruddy – blood-toned and foreboding, like the video for “River Runs Like Jewels”. Seldom has the tone of an album rested so much in the ear of the beholder.
This is certainly not an album to play in the car. After a deceivingly light beginning filled with the sounds of a gentle brook, a sub-bass develops like a descending plane. Drivers may be fooled into pulling over instead of pressing Pause or Eject. A bitter wind blows through the middle of the track, accompanied by avalanche roars and the tolling of bells – a sound which will become more important as the album develops. The effect is claustrophobic. And yet to stop here would be to miss the importance of the album’s trajectory, to misidentify its motives, to assume rather than to name. A journey is taking place: torturous and slow, but a journey nevertheless. Every creak and crack is a pitfall along the way to an uncertain end.
As an art form, the drone is often mistaken as a solid sound, when it is more likely to be a sound in motion. Each hum is joined here by another like travelers accompanied by Sherpas. A maelstrom continues to gather in “The Northern Sky, Ablaze”, balanced by chimes and squeaks: earthbound sounds that tether the listener to the realm of the earth while leading them toward the transcendent state of travelers and monks. As the edges of the tracks bond together like snow crystals, it becomes apparent that the album is best heard as a suite. Only the diamond crackle between Side A and Side B separates the sound from the silence.
The loudest sounds are saved for the finale of “Sleep Like the Dead”: wave upon wave of distortion, drowning the electric guitar. Is this an awakening or a threat? Perhaps the interpretation is best left undefined. These minutes mark the album’s dangerous summit, the high, exposed peak from which one may gain either perspective or death. Radio interference implies that a message is trying to get through, but it is washed away in the static.
Just when all seems lost and indistinct, a melody emerges through the ether like the windborne sound of a distant choir. The skies begin to clear. Crickets begin to chirp. Children play in the distance. On “Methodist Bells”, a piano. Is sanity in sight? Has the traveler returned? Again, the interpretation is up to the listener. On the one hand, these lighter sounds imply return and recovery. Yet on the other, when one listens closely, one begins to notice that the children are not live, but looped – which leads to a more sinister suspicion, that this perceived freedom is only the suspension of one’s awareness of confines. The true answer is buried somewhere in the sonic ink. (Richard Allen)
This new record from High Aura'd is our first exposure to this one man band's gorgeous understated minimal dronescapes, which we discovered via the man himself, who is in fact a long time aQ customer, and who we're proud to say, makes some seriously breathtaking music. Two epic side long sprawls, both born from near silence, a slow building A side that emerges as a deep rumbling and lush layered shimmer, a blurred ambience that drifts in soft focus billows, buried abstract melodies hover over slow shifting textures, all flecked with buzz and whir and distant streaks of sound, a serious slab of deep listening or which active listening is well rewarded, with a sound that is super active below the surface, the keen eared will hear strange voices, and mysterious melodies, and all manner of evidence regarding some secret sound world within High Aura'd's already gorgeously obfuscated music. The A side blossoms into a hiss drenched slo-mo creep, gradually fading out in a cloud of chiming bells and buried rhythms, the sound melancholy and sweetly sorrowful.
The flipside opens with some seriously Koner like low end minimalism, a cavernous drift much like that which opened the record, again building gradually to swath of black buzz crunch, a grinding landscape of hum and thrum and muted howl which quickly collapses into a soft cacophony of what sounds like orchestral samples, burred and smeared into an epic blissed out dreamlike coda before slipping back into the shadows, and a more wistful, hushed final passage.
I,joined by John Twells will be playing with Sutekh Hexen Sept.2nd, 3rd, and 4th