THE ABYSS is a demanding album; demanding of your attention (at times it dips to nearly zero for lengthy periods of time), demanding of your time (THE ABYSS clocks in @ 2+ hours), and demanding of your ears (when its pair of creators really let loose with the jagged noise). The pairing feels so right. KEVIN DRUMM, longtime Chicago experimentalist, is well known for his collaborations, his prolificacy, and his seemingly never ending exploration of new sounds and approaches to sound making. JASON LESCALLEET is a longtime New England experimentalist (now a Mainer, formerly a Bostonian), is well known for his collaborations, his prolificacy, and his seemingly never ending exploration of new sounds and approaches to sound making. Both have collaborated with AARON DILLOWAY, NMPERIGN, and on a solo basis with the latter’s 2 members (BHOB RAINEY & GREG KELLEY). There are other connections as well. The ancient ones spoke of this meeting.
Last year the pair of perpetual underground sound making instigators released THE INVISIBLE CURSE, a digi-EP which marked their first collaboration recorded for posterity. The wonderful ERSTWHILE RECORDINGS are responsible for bringing these two men together and then releasing their captured long form effort. This of course is THE ABYSS. And it is something. On CD, 2 discs. One, 7 tracks of droning mountains and valleys, static, lost vocals, serenity & pandemonium, tumbling broken sounds falling but knowing the end is nowhere near. The other a monstrous single track cutting out at JUST under 50 minutes. Compelling, grabbing for your ear and mind for its entirety.
This is not noise, this is not modern composition, this is not experimental electronic music, or electroacoustic music or musique concrete. This is free music, traveling along a path mysterious to us, but presumably understood by our pair of experienced guides. And it is electric, and it will haunt you, and call to you, urging you to listen again. “Abuse.” Woah. A nightmare synthesizer (?) malfunctioning far worse than could ever be imagined. Samples strewn throughout, eventually getting thrown out of doors. Outside now. Free for all of sound. I got it. Or it got me. “Anger Alert” is all static & hiss that finally gives up on the future of that pursuit upon the sounding of a sampled trumpet fanfare which sends the track hurtling in the direction of more ambient synthscape-like terrain, though this path is not necessarily direct. “Outside Now” begins with sounds of the night that reoccur consistently throughout the THE ABYSS. Its evolution from field recording, to minimal synthesizer drone, onto in finality, a scuzzing and desperate pit of imploding noise (all in the course of 7+ minutes) is spectacular. “You got that?” “Yeah.” Me too.
Disc 2 offers only the nearly 50 minute “The Echo Of Your Past.” I say only purely in regard to the very small number of tracks found on disc two, for this track is nothing to sneeze at. Field recordings of night. Crickets. A rising static eventually drops starkly into a deep bass tone (I hope you are listening with headphones/ dope speakers). I look up at the cliff above. Amazing. High frequencies elbow their way in, taking control and the whole thing rises again… And as it must finally, returns to Earth, again. A stately and slow crescendo floating near to the ground, but never touching it. Squiggly lines of sound creating a barrier that eventually eases into the near nothingness of a fading hiss. Bass rumbles in the distance still, and the monstrosity eventually emerges, but we are of no interest to such a monstrosity and so it immediately makes its way back into the deep underground. Watching it as it slips beyond the horizon, as our situation returns to “normal,” a slowed Al Green appears amid the bass rumble… do we have feelings about what just happened that we don’t understand or know about? I, I don’t know. What I do know is that THE ABYSS is something of a titanic record. A true calling to all sound makers to be free. A key perhaps, to what it means to be a sound artist in 2014, one that unlocks all potential sources of sound. A universal palette minus human fashioned restrictions. LESCALLEET & DRUMM have made an amazing record here.
The duo of KEVIN DRUMM & JASON LESCALLEET play @ HASSLE FEST 6 on friday 11/7 @ Cuisine en Locale in Somerville.