The genre of drone music has found a powerful voice in Swiss composer D’incise. During the past decade he has worked on several releases that have pushed this hypnotic medium into new territories. The latest release from d’incise, “Prairie”, continues this exploration of the minimal, stretching field recordings of various objects beyond their original forms, transforming them into unrecognisable sounds with their own tonal and emotional resonance.
“Prairie” is a four-track release split over 2-cds. Each track is quite lengthy, ranging from twenty-five minutes to one hour. Over the duration of three hours the listener is presented with subtle layers of sound that slowly weave around each other in a darkly atmospheric way. One of the pleasures of “Prairie” is listening beneath the swirl of drones, where a plethora of minute sounds is revealed.
“Prairie” demonstrates a highly creative process behind each track. “What’s wrong with a cowboy in Hamburg” features the harmonic vibrations of a drum skin, whilst “Amplification of a number of points supposedly worthless” features the magnification of quiet moments at a number of concerts. Recordings of nails, plastic boxes, feedback, and domestic sounds are also included to add depth to the tracks.
As with most forms of drone music the compositions sit comfortably in the background, the subtly layered tones fading in and out of the listener’s consciousness. However listening attentively through headphones provides a much more rewarding experience. D’incise knows how to use stereophonic effects to their fullest potential, with miniscule crackles and bleeps moving steadily between one ear and the other. It is through this act of listening that we realize the multi-layered complexity that exists in his work. Drone music, often accused of being too simplistic or monotonous, is shown in “Prairie” to be a highly elaborate construction. A sense of tension exists in “Prairie”, as the listener’s attention is manipulated between the background and foreground of the compositional elements.
In modern musical discourse drone music is often reduced to the label of “stoner rock”, yet this terminology shows a disregard to its historical lineage and present day intent. Drones can be traced back thousands of years to the mesmeric sound of the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo, and in the religious music of medieval European music. As with contemporary drone music these ancient cultures utilised dense and slowly evolving harmonies to subconsciously still the listener’s sense of time, enabling us to leave the external world and travel inwards. This approach is in opposition to today’s modern music that relies upon fast editing, big beats and anthemic build-ups; a point alluded to by d’incise in his liner notes stating “when it gets boring it becomes interesting”.
“Prairie” can be played as both an ambient record or as something to be listened to much more attentively. My suggestion is to put on a pair of headphones, turn off the lights and allow yourself to be moved by the deeply meditative tones of d’incise.
[D'Incise, photo author Robin Parmar -all rights reserved-]