Artist: Nicholas Szczepanik
Album: The Chiasmus
This also appeared on The Line of Best Fit.
Something I’ve always wondered about with drone music is the methodology behind it. With more traditional music forms it’s no great imaginative leap to strip back the structures to the skeleton beneath. But with these long form creations, that have no skeletal frame as such, what’s the governing impulse? Are we watching the unfolding of a process, or exploration? Or is there a narrative core and does the creator obey some unseen (to us) internal compulsion? Is the best analogue with imaginary landscape painting, or abstract impressionism? And what of the weight of tradition and the anxiety of influence?
Lofty questions I suppose, but I’ve found myself asking them over and over when listening to Nicholas Szczepanik’s The Chiasmus, a towering album of huge soundscapes and measureless metallic drones. It’s the first release of Szczepanik’s I’ve come across, (though it is something like his 5th release), but it feels immediately like a huge statement of intent – ambitious, poignant and profound – and does beg the questions asked above, namely: what is being conjured here? In essence, the construction is minimal and the tracks are built from comparatively little, but they speak of vast things.
‘Temporary Inundation of Sleep By Open Windows’ is a case in point: huge, but built from very little, its rolling deep of metallic drones provides a backdrop over which faint outside sounds intrude – distant rain, insect stridulations, the hum of background radiation. The title points towards a simple re-creation of a state of being, the listener hovers in a hypnagogic state and simply transcribes the experience into an aural medium. In this sense, the track becomes an exploration of the epic in the everyday – the drone functioning as a descriptive apparatus. And Szczepanik’s method does have a very visual quality to it, with ‘The Silhouettes of A Winter Sunset’ having a particularly visual feel. Much like ‘Temporary Inundation…’ it has odd extraneous sounds penetrating the surface of the main drone, which in this instance is a series of plangent, broad and hugely affecting vibrating layered organ tones. The visual element may be partly to do with the suggestive track title, but there is something else at work, something that functions at the edge of the soundwaves, like a ripple, almost becoming solid. It may be purely suggestibility of course, the inner eye looking for purchase. Whatever the reason, it’s quite something.
The Chiasmus closes with ‘Lose Yourself, which is I guess largely self-explanatory. A warm drone slowly builds and recedes, yet as if beneath layers of land, or exuded from deep inside your own limbic system. It’s a simple primitive pulse, inviting and already known – both from convention and from some other deeper strata. As the track swells, it gathers the same sense of high vibration that ‘Silhouttes…’ exuded, and develops a metallic sheen. It closes with a heart-leapingly loud burst of static – the same burst that opens the record, and well, we’re back where we started. Dazzled, and still grasping for answers. And I suspect, from the almost Borgesian aspect of the title, that’s probably the point. It’s a record that asks unanswerable questions and there is much to be said for that.
You can stream 'The Silhouettes of A Winter Sunset' over at Nicholas's website.
Nicholas Szczepanik – The Chiasmus
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