into the woods with daniel thomas and stereocilia

April 29, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Daniel Thomas – All That is Perishable is but an Allegory (self-released download)

Stereocilia – Murmurations (CD or download, Echoic Memory)

daniel thomas - allegorystereocilia - murmurations

Imagine waking up on the forest floor. Low, sharp morning light is dancing around you, filtered through a swaying canopy of leaves overhead. Turning your head to one side crackles the mulch underneath you: leaves, twigs, pine needles and other pungently rotten ingredients. Focussing your eyes on the micro level, you see a surface in constant flux as busy insects jostle their way through it. The feeling of something crawling across your cheek wakes you sufficiently to sit up. Wiping the beetle away you discover a sticky patch on your forehead – blood? Your rucksack is next to you and a few moments with tissues and water from a bottle and you feel fine – oddly peaceful and rested even. What happened?

Getting to your feet, a little uneasily, you see a thick, low-hanging branch with an almost comical crack at exactly head height. You reach out for the tree’s trunk to steady yourself and, like treacle poured from a tin, the events leading to you knocking yourself out flow back into your consciousness. You remember being spooked by the noise of footsteps echoing your own, plumes of what looked like breath steam emerging from nearby undergrowth. Then you heard the snort – a throat clearing harrumph – turned to look and… walked headlong into a fucking tree.

Suddenly all doubt as to what you saw is torn away like a sticking plaster: it’s here. It is lounging, sat splayed in a hollow tree stump, looking part God-King of the Forest, part backwoods hillbilly in a tin bath. It is huge, covered in red-brown hair and its curious, watery grey eyes are coolly staring right at you.

A moment of stillness. A moment of panic.

You scramble in your rucksack for the camera, the creature pushes down with gigantic hands and leaps to its feet. Can you get the shot? Can you be the one to push those dreams onto the front pages, into the textbooks? It’s real! It’s real! It’s…

Gone.

—ooOoo—

This cryptozoological vignette was inspired by a couple of days listening alternately to the two releases above. Dan (Thomas, of Hagman and Sheepscar Light Industrial) and John (Scott, of Stereocilia) take different paths through the trees but converge on the same clearing.

Dan’s piece is the more literal as it includes recordings made during an actual walk through a managed forest. He has completed the same walk scores of times over a number of years and was bemused to find a favourite section had been harvested and replanted – a situation documented, I presume, by the before and after photographs superimposed to make the Bandcamp ‘cover’ image.

Added to the smell of pine sap and the chatter of birds is a phased synth drone, raw and intense but carefully controlled. It could well be the audio equivalent of a giant, brutish creature gracefully keeping itself hidden whilst tracking an unsuspecting hiker. With its treated field recordings and attention to nuance this is another terrific example of what I have coined extraction music. Another feather in Dan’s cap – a cap that is looking increasingly like a Native American headdress.

John takes a more figurative approach. The first track, ‘FWD>>’, is magnificent 23 minute epic. The synth is there or thereabouts but the spirit of the woods is represented by an expansive guitar part rather than with a field recording. It starts light – an airy drone is accompanied by some very pleasant Durutti Column-ish delay-jangle – but soon takes on a more serious heft. The drone swells and absorbs the guitar line, a new guitar line envelops and absorbs the drone. This ebb and flow is expertly paced. Crescendos in mood are plotted and executed with seamless and wholly engaging coherence. I read that it was constructed from a year’s worth of improvisations – the mind boggles.

The guitar is unmoored in ‘Dilute’, the second track, drifting away to leave a honeyed drone as satisfying and simple as a sunset reflected in a lake (very, dare I say it, midwichian). The third track, ‘Bright Light’ brings it all together for the hike back to the car, ticking percussion acting as a breadcrumb trail leading us out of the woods.

Very impressive, both.

—ooOoo—

Daniel Thomas

Stereocilia

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