Canada’s Damian Valles comes to drone with a wide musical experience, and postrock, folk/country and electronic elements are liberally dropped over the ambient soundscapes on this beautiful album.
It’s hard to define why the album still wants to be classified as drone at all. While some of Valles’ other recent work has consisted more exclusively of stretched out walls of sound, in so many ways this is anything but.
Like other practitioners of drone of late (see Jasper TX, Machinefabriek and the venerable Simon Scott), Valles’ new album does use the underlying soundworld of drone, with its deceptively un-homogeneous, rolling waves of designed sound, but mixes it in with acoustic and electric guitar, live drums and bass, plus piano, electronics and field recordings. So we open with shimmering guitar drone on “Bones Made Out Of Bone”, soon overlaid with machine noises (or are they creaks and scrapes on a guitar?) and briefly a heavily effected vocal. It’s soundscapey experimentalism to a tee.
But even the longest and most electronic-sounding track, “Ascent of the Past” — which starts with nothing but burbling organ holding a single chord — gains at the 2 minute mark a dirge-like guitar melody, with a slow two-note bassline, sparse drums and shaker — a change which is both unexpected and totally appropriate. In a way, it’s a slightly lusher variant of Zelienople’s soundworld.
That track is followed in succession by a relatively short interlude of radio samples, feedback noise and delay-effected guitar, and then a kind of inverse of “Ascent of the Past”, in which a slightly latin-inflected set of guitar patterns is slowly subsumed by stuttery delays and drone.
A further surprise comes with the entry of Heidi Hazelton’s vocals on “Bell And Arc”. Yet even here, though the vocals are mixed clear and high in the track, the backing is still a slow-cruising, one-chord affair, drones combined with pulsing percussion and subtle riffs.
It’s a highly accomplished opus, and deserves a far wider listenership than just fans of drone and ambient.