Weaves by Distant Animals

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Distant Animals | Weaves
Hallow Ground (LP/DL)

Distant Animals returns to the Hallow Ground label for his second album of modular synth explorations.  On this LP, the project of Daniel Alexander Hignell investigates a spacial and often quasi-rhythmic approach to sound making.  Where his debut album for the label, “Lines” traded in low frequency drones (case in point, the first track was titled Pure Drone), this new release finds the artist making a radical departure from this corner of the avant-garde sound world and applying his patch cables to more complex patterns.

Each side of this record is taken up by a longform track, Weaves Part 1 and 2.  Side A features a loose collection of bell-like tones, mallet strikes and forms a slowly-shimmering soundscape that gathers in intensity during its duration.  Plenty of space, and spaces, exist between these tonal plucks and hits, and there is a sense of randomness here that lends the piece a freeform identity, leaving the listener unsure of what will next occur.  Atonal but not entirely non-melodic, some strange magic is conjured as the track progresses, and in its later stages the rhythmic hits become more elongated, like the release and sustain of notes veering unpredictably.  These tones are left to cast longer threads into this woven pattern, sizzling in a heatwave of bright timbres.

The flip side’s part begins with muted notes, that soon pick up the baton from the first side’s musical vocabulary.  Similar styled hits and percussive tactics are employed here, but its track length is longer.  In its twenty-minute duration the artist finds more time to send sounds careering between more varied moments.  A little noisier than part 1, there is more grit and edge, and that fringe of distortion becoming much more integral.  Suddenly, at the midway point, things calm down enough that smaller sounds, like delayed pings and motor pulses, enter the sonic frame, giving way to a shadowy drone.  Scuzzy field recordings appear, unintelligible voices wailing from the ether, and the drone intensifies into a more intimidating wall of noise.  For my money, this respite from the scattershot rhythms comes at just the right time, the contrast lifting the piece from an enjoyable improvised modular workout and into a highly sophisticated composition.

After repeated listens to this record, I’ve been discovering new sounds between the larger events, micro-organisms squirming under and between the clangs.  But it’s those final moments of the second side that elevate this to a really satisfying work of art.  It’s that sudden shifting of gears that applies a shift in focus for the listener, and one that pays off beautifully.

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