CRYPTIC SCENERY – THE GLACIAL AGE
Cryptic Scenery is a new name to me, but that does not mean The Glacial Age is a debut album. On the contrary – it seems I may have missed something. Check the biography on their website or on discogs to find out that their history dates from 1994 and counts more than 30 releases!
Cryptic Scenery started as a band originally, then became a Christian H. Sötemann solo project, and in 2009 he formed a duo with Thomas Pertzel. The musical approach varied accordingly: “the music of cryptic scenery has always oscillated between an experimental, challenging approach… and some more accessible material, at times even pop-orientated songs”.
For now, let’s focus on The Glacial Age, which in this case is a solo piece by Sötemann. It is a single 45-minute piece simply described as a “long-form, calm and hypnotic ambient piece”.
Not exactly a description to raise your interest perhaps, since there are literally thousands of pieces fitting that description. But The Glacial Age is a striking example of long-form drone that deserved a more fitting description than that simple statement.
It starts like an orchestra playing a single long chord that is held for the entire length of the piece. But gradually new elements are added, and removed again, exchanged for other sounds, giving the piece a kind of symphonic character without disturbing its inner calmness. Like a short orchestral piece stretched out to 45 minutes. With these subtle variations, the piece holds the listener’s attention for its entire length.
I assume that the orchestral sound is generated electronically, but The Glacial Age has a beautiful organic feel, as if some/most of the instruments could have been acoustic.
I heartily recommend checking out this piece if you’re interested in long-form drone music. Even (or maybe especially) if you’re not familiar with the genre.
There’s little risk involved, since The Glacial Age is offered as a name-your-price download.
QUEST – (A) QUARTER
Quite different in sound, but equally engaging is this relatively short piece (22 minutes) that Frans de Waard created especially for the Taâlem label (dedicated to releasing their music on 3″-cd’s: hence the length restriction).
Frans de Waard’s output is difficult to categorize, although all of it can be categorized as ‘experimental’. When he uses his Quest alias, it means the output is ‘beatless ambient’ – if it had a rhythm the alias would be Qst.
(A) Quarter is a single continuous piece, but there are quite some changes in atmosphere and sound structure throughout; the composition has different chapters.
Its sound is obviously referring to the cosmic sound of early electronic krautrock, but (fortunately) without the obligatory sequencer patterns.
A nice trip to outer space does not necessarily need to last lightyears!
RENÉ AQUARIUS – UNIVERSE
René Aquarius is a Dutch drummer in various ‘weird and heavy bands’, of which the Dead Neanderthals is probably the most familiar. But from his solo work – and especially from Universe – you will not exactly hear his drumming skills, because he then mainly focuses on drone, ambient and field recordings.
But there is a link: even if it’s hard to recognize the sound on Universe is created from cymbal sound sources, heavily manipulated and stacked on top of each other.
With its two long tracks – Proximity (42″) and Isolation (38″) – Universe is the album truest to the long-form drone. Compared to the two albums mentioned above, I mean: it’s the most minimalist of the three.
But that does not mean there’s nothing happening here. On close listening (headphones recommended for this) you hear the sound waves rolling over each other like the waves in the sea … building up the intensity, receding again, ever-moving and flowing….
Constantly moving yet radiating intense tranquility.