Oberlin, Ohio’s Nagual is a two-piece loop-based drone project, whose sonic palette includes whale-call guitar squeals, degenerating piano stabs, waves of electrical buzzing, grounding bass ripples, and even a gloriously paranoid moment of free jazz drumming. Their debut self-titled album includes three pieces, each exploring a different approach to a slow, increasingly dissonant ascent. The guitars gripe and moan at each other, interspersed by pricks of crackling electrical signal. Bright timbres are continually tossed onto a gentle harmonic base until the brightness turns glaring, the placid turns frenzied, and the drone reaches the tense outer-limits of the psychoacoustic spectrum.
I caught them live a few weeks ago; the two displayed a disciplined improvisational approach to their compositions. In their performance of “Sweat Raag,” Ian Mcoolm and David Shapiro gathered a substructure of noodling loops and tones until Ian popped over to the drums. Dave kneeled on the ground, stretching his arms in a crucifix position to reach both of their pedal rigs at once – pinching knobs, bending the regeneration and panning the volume of the escalating loops to join the rapidly skittering drums in a totally stunning climax.
Stream “Honey River Lacquer” from the Nagual LP out on Ergot Records.