Monday, 28 October 2019

Lavatone - The Blue Boar.

Artist: Lavatone
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Monolith
     2.      The Blue Boar
     3.      Empty Room
     4.      Shelter in Place

I’ve only heard Lavatone once before and that was only a single track on Kalamine Records’ Inside/Beside 3 compilation which came out some months ago. And now along comes a four-track album from this Texan one-man drone outfit, allowing me to get a deeper feel for his music and his sensibilities. And, of course, allowing me to see whether this so far extremely interesting and quality French netlabel has yet again released a winner.

‘Monolith’, at eight minutes or so the shortest of the tracks on here, pretty much hits the ground running with a rasping and grinding bass tone which provides a vehicle for hornlike drones, a fanfare blaring from the verandas of some vast edifice, huge braziers ablaze at either end sending columns of scented smoke skyward. Imagine a kind of ziggurat towering into the heavens, flanked by endless sets of steps all leading to a temple structure at its top. The mass of stone is enough to intimidate by itself, let alone the sheer size of the building. A slow steady pounding beat measures out the pulse of proceedings, a sonorous affair, a ritual of sacrifice and perhaps appeasement. A lowering grey cloudscape only adds to the feeling of oppressive intimidation, a weight that bows the shoulders of all who stand or kneel at its feet.

The album’s title track cues up next, howling winds and ringing reverberant tones winging their way in from somewhere far off, a mass of denseness floating in the sky to block the sun and its warming rays. It feels like a glowering presence up there, a sentient ‘thing’ observing all that happens below, a god-like entity judging everyone and everything. Snarling feedback and guttural growls radiate its inherent malignity, a solid slab of hatred and malice given actual form. Its baleful influence and searching stare are physical qualities, designed to be threatening and to serve as a warning: do not step out of line or act against what we think is right.

‘Empty Room’ delineates a truly cavernous space, beginning with an atonal screech of strings that’s immediately followed by a deeply growling hurricane of drone and howls, as if the very bowels of the earth are letting rip, screaming out its antipathy and animus against those who have claimed the surface as their kingdom by rights. These battering groans swirl and coil, reaching out to fill every available inch of space in the subterrestrial caverns, only to be amplified by the echoing stone itself and accumulate into a bestial bellowing of enormous proportions. Accompanying the grumbles and roars are smaller creatures, snarling and grunting in empathy. The slow heartbeat and pulsing of the earth itself is the metronome to this blasting symphony, a cacophonic and searing jet of antagonistic complaint.

Finally, ‘Shelter in Place’ marks the end of the album, and its ambience is much calmer and less calamitous – indeed, I would even go so far as to say that, at least initially, it’s a quietly soporific wash of soothing waves, a hymnal floating serenely somewhere in the mid-atmosphere. Gradually, though, antipathetic elements encroach upon its blissful shores, introducing some grainier and insalubrious notes, generating a sense of thrilling alarm. But soon enough it seems that equilibrium is restored, and whatever black clouds started to appear on the horizon have dissolved and disappeared, and we are once again treated to exquisite harmonics, slightly distorted but that only makes them all the sweeter for that.

I find myself having to say that yet again Kalamine have released another high quality album, one that should satisfy any ardent drone fan out there. The Blue Boar is one of those recordings that make it all look so easy, but also making us aware on a careful listen that that definitely isn’t the case: it sounds complicated because it’s carefully layered, using the simplest of ingredients and elements. It comes down to how this brew is put together that makes it as good as it is – there are no unnecessary additions or adornments, just the absolute minimum needed to create the moods and ambiences. It always makes me think just how intimate musicians must need to be with the nature of sound and its properties in order to produce such finely attuned sonic tapestries. Lavatone has definitely mastered the intricacies of sound judging by this, as a consequence crafting a grandiose weft and warp of subterranean and elevated ambient aesthetics simultaneously. Excellent stuff!

Available as a download from the Kalamine Records Bandcamp page:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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