It has long been a habit of many rock and metal bands to name albums and songs after their genre, creating a kind of self-referential loop. From Bill Haley and his Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock”, over Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods”, all the way to Nargaroth’s “Black Metal ist Krieg”, rock musicians have shown an affinity for singing about their own singing. In a way, this could be viewed as an expression of the vapidness, narcissism and utter pointlessness of modern popular music – “good” such included. You wouldn’t see Wagner writing an opera about opera fans singing about opera, the way Manowar do about their genre of choice. In another way, it could be viewed as something else entirely, and in yet another way none of this may be particularly interesting – what with Donald Trump’s visist to Saudi Arabia, the new season of Twin Peaks airing and my weed problem (by which I am actually and unironically referring to the fucking dandelions in my garden out back).
When a genre is less about music and more about sound, choosing titles that reflect those sounds may make more sense (apart from the fact that like 99% of all pieces of classical music are named only after their musical form, as some smart-ass no doubt remembered when I brought Wagner into the mix). Ambient music often takes the scenic route – choosing titles, and on occasion utilizing samples, to reflect a mood or story. Scott Lawlor has chosen a middle road with his latest release – a 73 minute ambient extravaganza entitled Drone Excursion 022 (Crystal Echoes). Adding a slight atmospheric touch, harmonizing well with the digital emerald cover, the title still proclaims itself a study in a particular ambient sound – the drone.
And a drone we get – minimalist, developing and ever so slightly unnerving. The excursion isn’t quite dark ambient, though the sound could certainly form part of some blacker variety of ambient music, but nor is it relaxing, fall-asleep-to-the-singing-of-whales stuff. There are melodic elements within the uninterrupted flow of slowly evolving nothingness, but you won’t find many melodies to hum at work, unless you work as a catatonic person. There are surely hints of Sci-Fi, but of the sterile, literally scientific type rather than of the Cosmic Horror or Space Opera type. You’re not leading your troop of Space Marines in an assault on an Eldar Craftworld here, but rather trying to apply toothpaste in a vacuum while staring out on the vast emptiness of the cosmos and awaiting some Russian guy to replace you on the station three months from now. You are also a little worried about some compressor that may be about to malfunction, which could pose a problem at some point. There’s beauty and horror, but of a narrowly realistic type.
The title and the green gems on the cover might provide another interpretation, and make it possible for us to view this as the soundtrack of a mineral or crystal, its life cycle set to music and sped up thousands of times over. The slightly inhuman quality of the all but monophonic drones, as well as of the minor additional layers of drone and higher pitch semi-melodies that appear at times, would indeed lend itself to such an interpretation. As the dual title suggests, we are free to choose for ourselves if we listen to this as a sonic experiment, or as something painting a non-musical picture, utilizing drones as a brush.
Drone Excursion 022 (Crystal Echoes) is not the most accessible piece of ambient you’ll find on the market, but it is certainly pure and engaging. For no more than three dollars, a download is yours to be had.