It’s easy enough to dismiss a drone record without giving it due care and attention. It’s designed to sound the same, argue the nay-sayers, there’s only so much variety an artist can put into the work. That argument is swiftly kicked into touch by c. yantis‘ latest cassette release which ably demonstrates the power and variety within drone music, with different approaches on each side. In fact opener “Rand” is a perfect entry point for a newcomer to drone, with a noir-ish late night vibe cooked up by electric piano chords and a sympathetic walkin’ bass accompaniment. This sets the mood which is beautifully subverted by the billowing clouds of feedback drone that spread out and dominate the piece. The chords are still plugging away unbowed underneath – they offer something to focus on – and are there when the feedback storm has blown itself out.
After that gentle intro, the next piece “Domestic Devotional” concentrates much more on the drone than any instrumentation but as one’s attention has been drawn in, it is easier to pick up patterns and the ghostly extra voices and noises that start to creep out of the background. The overall effect is like being faced with a blizzard, a white (noise) out if you will. At first it just seems to be a blinding brightness but gradually one attunes one’s senses to it and gradually more detail becomes apparent; that is the effect that the first side of Box Elder, Cold Scholar has on the listener.
By way of contrast, side two of the record approaches drone with more of an organic ‘band’ feel, as a group of musicians – although I’m pretty sure yantis is working singlehanded on this – strive to maintain a mood over the course of 10 minutes on “Glyph”, with various bowed and blown instruments. They attempt to hold a drone-like pattern but don’t always succeed; it’s the human element to the piece that makes it so engaging. The closing track pulls both sides together; ‘real’ instruments operate on one channel whilst an other-worldly drone is set up in the other. It’s a gripping listen, hypnotic even, and takes what was already a strong album to another level. Think all drone sounds the same? Think again. (Jeremy Bye)