Kevin Drumm has been known to wield an iron fist on his recordings—records like Sheer Hellish Miasma, Impish Tyrant, and Electronic Harassment are titled that way for a reason—but Trouble may punish you in different, and sneakier, ways. This is the quietest record I’ve heard since Bernhard Günter and Francisco Lopez’s hushed microsound works from the turn of the millennium. It is so quiet that you’ll need to turn the volume up very, very loud to hear it well, or indeed, at all. In my case, that involves several steps—one volume control on the laptop, one on the audio interface, and one on the DJ mixer that it all runs through on the way to a pair of studio monitors—as well as closing the window in order to shield Drumm’s filament-like drones from the rumble of traffic outside. Suffice to say, this is an album that requires some effort, and part of that effort might involve just sitting still.
I thought I might get some multi-tasking done—file maintenance, email cleanup, general absent-minded mousing around—while I sat and zoned out to a first run-through of what might be the Chicago noise musician’s most ethereal recording since 2009’s Imperial Horizon. But I had forgotten about the computer’s default alert sounds, and when I went to delete a document, I was startled by the noise that suddenly tore through my speakers—a sound like boots crunching through snow, almost painfully loud. The sound, of course, came not from Drumm’s Worse than Burning Offal studios, but from a lab in Cupertino. But it was tempting to imagine that moment of sonic violence as a part of the piece, in a way. Kevin Drumm wants your full attention, and he has mastered Trouble in such a way to practically guarantee it.
Another, perhaps better, option is just to leave the album on in the background at a natural, almost inaudible volume, and let it sink in like incense. That’s the same line of thinking behind Imperial Horizon‘s lone, hour-long track “Just Lay Down and Forget It”, presumably. I can think of few passive listens that might be less taxing than this shimmering, 54-minute piece, divided into two halves and separated by a minute or two of actual, total silence. As far as wallpaper music goes, Brian Eno‘s Music for Airports scans as a clash of gaudy op-art prints compared to Drumm’s almost invisible layer of atmosphere. Still, per the title, Drumm’s disappearing act amounts to a kind of uneasy listening, even at an almost imperceptible volume. This is the sound of fingertips slowly tracing crystal rims; of whale song heard from the opposite end of the ocean; of ghost trains braking in the dead of night. It is the sound of mountains slumping and mist settling. Its deathless peal is a dead ringer for the music of the spheres—all that friction, all that reverb, nothing but shivering frequencies, from here to the ends of the known universe. It’s the ghostly microwaves of cosmic background radiation.
Despite Drumm’s noisy reputation, his music can be overwhelmingly sensual even at its loudest. Sheer Hellish Miasma‘s “Hitting the Pavement”, for instance, is a full-body rubdown of distortion—part airplane engine, part power sander, yet still, above all, a welcoming embrace. And that goes a thousand-fold for the sublime Trouble, an album that invites you to dive into its clutches with the promise of never hitting bottom. The noise floor is a very, very long way down.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1sPMizv