Minimal Drone GRL
Out 3rd April
Fans of evocative and spacious electronic soundscapes will be pleased to know that Canadian drone sonician Minimal Drone GRL has released her long-awaited debut album on Bricolage Records. We listen intently as she conjures imagery from British Columbia past, present, and beyond, to form a continual passage through magical and dream-building sound. The artist utilised recording capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic with live takes in Canada and the UK making up this ninety minute release.
The album opens with forest sounds. Footsteps merge with tingles of electronica as birds and wind-swept canopies dapple in the luminous mix. A chiming whistle calls out in an adjacent voice to the luxurious birdsong. Warm chords then form beneath which carry organic and orchestral sounds on their currents. River water moves the progression along in drifting ambience, Belcarra Forest Ambience.
Torpor (Eyes Through A Bear) takes us to water again. This time the ocean surges in neat portions along the lines of a breaking shore. A rumbling bass begins to cast a rhythmic spell through the chaos of aquatic nature. This grows to become a shimmering ray of sound which radiates up and through the matrices of happenings below. A pulsation becomes apparent, it stammers on occasion and in an almost talkative manner, the tone begins to dictate the rest of the music. Harmonising tones add a minor perspective to the originally positive sound. Ghostly atmosphere now permeates the track as the music takes us deep into a shadow-lined realm.
As forest sounds bring us to the end of the previous track, we're given an audio recording of a platform announcement at a UK station. A steam-train hoot is sounded as carriages rattle by. Disparate organ sounds then churn and gather as eerie sonics tumble and crawl in distant passages. We're drawn in, other electronic noises find a way to increase the intensity without breaking the fragile tension. A voice then resonates across the vast expanse of digital atmosphere. This is joined by a rhythmic bass tone that plunges before more train sounds and abstract movement add another dimension to our realm. This is replaced by a phone call, to a recording of a nature tape. This evolves to glowing chords that bustle away the abstraction with vibrant statements. Cross Country 365 Days is an immense track, dynamic and folded with imagery.
Next we enter Realms Of Foreshadowing Hindsight. It's not a nice feeling when our errors are obvious. Better to focus on the learning and growth. We can nearly always go back and make corrections if we want to. A beautiful melody on bells rings out in high pitched tones which sparkle like glistening lights. A lush choral synthesiser shimmers and glows with seductive waves underneath. A warmth paired with mystery unveils a corridor of melody and imagination as the tones evolve and grow in ever-present radiance.
A sinister multi-tonal shining beams forward from angular perspectives as the new track begins. Shimmering wavelengths coil and bend around lucid frameworks that glimmer and dance with gem like lustre. Buzzing undertones rise from cavernous spaces as the thickening amalgam tenses and flexes within containers of compression and pitch. Various unique sounds form from knotted potentials and assume attitudes and other artistic postures as the gradual flow releases. Improvement District No. 12 is a slow and dreamy number which opens like a flower. Drums scatter vibrant chords along with dashing cymbals that clatter in happy patterns.
Sudden plunges of cyber-bass walk us through synthetic landscapes as a high-end melody chimes in an 8-bit sounding pattern. Echo and reverb warm the mix into lush and comfortable spaces that build with shifting tones. Contours of wave-form link together as topographies are scattered with ice crystals and rain-showers depending on their situation. Velvet Shadows takes us through under-passages and side-walks welded to the water's edge that lead to mysterious and aromatic niche venues.
Ambivalence is next. It begins with the familiar sounds of a firework display. Is it November the 5th or the 1st July? Who knows, who cares, after-all this is something we're ambivalent about isn't it? Fun sounds of children cooing and screaming descriptions at one another are merged with nattering adults and crackling gunpowder. Strings then sweep in like a cool night breeze as birdsong breaks through the commotion. Night birds sing among ghostly harmonies with the distinctive sound of a jet-plane soaring over-head. A siren rings out, warning of the impending barrage. What do we do? Coo and wonder at the light-show or run for cover? Who cares, after-all we're ambivalent to this, are we not.
We are whisked away from the disorientation of warfare and plunged into the peel of a church tower. Multiple bell call out in neat formations until they're replaced by more birds and a whistling harmonisation that tingles and shivers in the open. Pianos and drums are added, they rhythmically bind the piece with tempo driven phrases that repeat in small sixpences. A hypnotic surge of energy pushes through as the mix builds in background ambience and glimmer while the percussion kneads ever onward through the recipe. Nostalgic Echoes is a track of wanderlust and packed with subtle chapters that gracefully evolve in long-winded passages of sound.
Strange pipe and flute noises call out in vast caves of indoor space as odd glistening windows beam warm light into the dusty air. Tonal qualities stretch from all sides in a diverse and multi-cultural rendition of organic and electronic. Huge depth meets airy breath in a mixture of up and down tones. These fade all of a sudden, revealing a sombre and low-pitched bass tone. This curdles and coils in abstract gloopy movements as extra colour is brightened in the shape. New tones with ever higher harmonisations reach through like glitter in a sticky mixture. With lava-lamp like quality, the mix becomes less solid and begins to travel with convecting currents. Then, at a critical moment, the whole mass melts into lots of small globules and bubble shapes that froth and dance in the churning tides. Shifting Plates (Juan de Fuca) is a dynamic track which eloquently evolves from phase to phase.
More flute sounds play in a folk inspired melody, invoking images of windy hills and people wearing ramshackle clothes. Patchwork skirts are back in fashion perhaps, as we wander through green hills littered with flowering heather and meadow flowers. A river shines through the nature sounds, an ambience and seclusion forms around us. Here, among the natural processes of the universe, we are aware and we perceive. Human voices and digital noises break through the sonic blanket like a shark-fin on a sunny beach-day. This is then replaced by chattering birds and a solitary tribal drumbeat. A voice singing in time to the rhythm joins in, foreign syllables chant traditional sounds across the pattern of percussion. Spirit Of Kolus then turns to the sounds of wild animals and strange instruments to completely take us into the wilderness.
CloudWalker begins with a vocal sample that describes a journey into space. Then, disparate keyboards add various tones and colours to a melting fluid that creeps gradually like warmed butter. Ever-reaching keyboards shimmer and scatter lightness through deep and angular dimensions as strange noises sweep from each abstract side. Lights from the walls greet sludgy bass and subtle percussion while draughty currents slink and slide through the openings. A wholesome timbre is added to compressed keyboards sounds, muted and squashed, the end result is a warm yet faded bubbling of chord. These match up with high-reaching beams of sonic illumination.
The album ends on Taiga (Boreal CDA). Heavenly chords nestle between swift and timeless atmosphere that crumbles and folds with each application of tension. Bells ring through the misty sky, their simple melody strikes memorable elements of our inside that tingle as the notes sink in. New synths rumble and fizz underneath as extra layers of melody swerve in their pathways. A dreamy and relaxing sleep filled with beautiful sounds is perfect for the finisher. We get a few bonus tracks too, but you'll have to buy it to know what they sound like.
Get Ancestral Origins by Minimal Drone GRL on Bandcamp
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Rowan Blair Colver for The Electro Review.