26 October 2014

Hiss Tracts - Shortwave Nights


I adore the cover on this album, the harsh contrast of the black and white photography here is amazing and you could drink in that image for hours on end and not get bored with it.  I also like the fact that this album is a side project which until the last few weeks I did not know even existed.  This project is Hiss Tracts and was originally formed in 2008 by David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Set Fire To Flames) and Kevin Doria (Total Life and Growing).  The main idea for this album (according to the artist page on Constellation Records) is to form a weave thread of dissonant drone, lush ambiance and sharp sonic textures into an immersive and complex sound world.  Now if you are not familiar with this sort of music before hand and that last sentence sound a little pretentious, this will probably not be the page for you and I am sure you can find something else on here to read about.  However, if you are open to ideas and something that is not on the beaten path - read on.

Now I understand how this sort of album works, you will not get songs per se but you will get sections of music soundscape that are left there for the audience to immerse themselves into; just little pots of atmosphere for you to fall into and lose yourself for a moment or ten.  When first track "....shortwave nights" rumbles into view, the off-key buzzing and feedback drifts over the listen and over it you have gentle looping guitars and violins that would not sound out of place in Mr Bryant's other projects.  For eight plus minutes you are placed in a state of comfort and unease, a combination that is hard to maintain but delivered none the less by this duo.  The next track is "Half-Speed Addict Starts With Broken Wollensak", the piano is the focus here as it dominates the sound from beginning to end; your focus throughout the number is to the keys that pound away.....or so it would seem, as you have other noises drift over them and you find that actually you have had a sub-bass movement in the background infecting the keys and distorting your view.  That is very clever and shows the control of the artists here.  "Slowed Rugs" starts off with feedback and pitches just to that strange side of the soundscape that can make someone feel incredibly uncomfortable.  It is a sound that is experienced as well as heard, the rumbles pulsing up and down the body in a way that can make some people feel out of control. This is a track that reminds me a lot of Sunn 0))) and some of their early work, obviously you could also add GY!BE to that as well which is not that hard a connection to make.  The only thing about this number is that it feels a little too short; it could have been explored a little more.

"Drake Motel/"9 Gold Cadillacs"" is an interlude that sort of goes nowhere, aiming to be a Tom Waits spoken word without ever really getting close to it.  "Windpipe Gtrs." is the fifth track on offer here which goes back to the droning soundscape that is the main part of this album.  The track starts with a single note growing in volume and texture, but there is nothing else apart from the reverb of the note and the looping nature of the tune as well.  It is a strange one that is over before it has time to do anything else for the listener.  Just that shade too safe for once on this one.  After this is "Halo Getters", this track feels very organic (as does a lot of this album).  The music might come from instruments, but with using a mixture of natural and man-made sounds seems to be the major influence with this track being one of the best examples of their work.  The bases of this number seems to be the sounds of either a big city waking up in the distance of dawn in a forest, I can hear both in this track and I have no doubt that I am also probably wrong on both accounts.  Either way, it is one of the most interest numbers on the record.

"For The Transient Projectionist" begins with a bell being chimed, the reverbs ringing out through the speakers and the sound around them vibrating and echoing naturally around your head.  After a while, there is some fantastic fret work and reverb heading around the ear and then towards one of the speaker pointing at the other side of the room.  It is pulsing and full of life, incredibly easy to be lost in and not without darker moments. Following on is another interlude track called "Ahhh-Weee Dictaphone", less than a minute long and over before it gains traction.  It could easily been kept as part of "Test Recording At Trembling City", as the opening starts with a similar noise before the soundscape takes over the tune.  This has a similar arc to "For The Transient Projectionist", but with a lot more reverb moving around the song.  Depending on your mood, this could be a tipping point for the listener with this record.  All the sounds building up to this deep rumble which is eventually split with the raise of the horn instruments that dominates the later end of the track.  It sounds as if the soundscape is rising against the world.  It would have been the way to end the album for me, but there is a coda in the form of "Beijing-Bullhorn/Dopplered Light?".  It starts with the sound of people in a restaurant of shop, a speaker shouting a repetitive message and the drifting drone starts to sound over the record.  It is perhaps a track too far for me, but it is what the group wished to release.

This record is focused in nature and it is used as a template for some of the best tracks on the record, it is very minimal without any wasted songs on the album.  It does not rush to get anywhere and in some places it does not move at all.  It is a decent record, but I do not thing it will get many more fans outside the genre or who are already following Messrs Doria & Bryant.  Also for an album that is just shy of the three quarters of an hour mark, there is a little bit too much filler in places that could have been replaced with other ideas being given the space to grow.  It is also just that bit too out of the sphere for the average music fan; however if you are willing to give the album a chance, it will yield its charms eventually. 

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - For The Transient Projectionist

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the artist page on Constellation Records here

 You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for our Deezer users 

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