A visceral nightmare, where one struggles to awaken out of its crushing endurance, is possibly the worst kind of nightmare that can assail the mind. Delighted In Isolation is one of those nightmarish, warped events that fastens onto the midnight hours, and that, thankfully, may not be experienced all too often; even the most devoted thrill-seeker may not be in a rush to travel its nightly roads. It’s the kind of nightmare that leaves us with sweat soaking our skin and eyes wide open, gasping for air at 2 in the morning as our pulse races at a hundred beats per minute, all the while staring at the afterimages that live behind our lids like the red-eyed residue a flash leaves behind in the taking of a photograph. What lies inside is a shimmering vortex of drone that isn’t the kind to lull us away and set us up in preparation for a night of easy sleep.
It may, in some instances, be possible to revel in isolation, but with Daniel Thomas at the controls, any easy ride is purely a hopeful hallucination. In drone and dark ambient circles, Delighted In Isolation is an impressive feat. Surely, there is a great delight and an appreciation upon finding a degree of solace. One could argue that it is a necessity to spend some time alone in a world full of chaos, to recuperate and find some space spent in solitude, but isolation is an entirely different beast in itself. Listening to Delighted In Isolation is like playing the video game Slender in the dead of night, where the thud of something unstoppable chases us down with a supernatural grace, defying any rules of physics like the quicksand sprints in a nightmare, where we may run and not make any progress at all, and where danger could lie around any corner. As always, the fear is in the unseen. Listener discretion is advised.
It all opens with an unrecognisable breathing, perhaps a thick-set minotaur taking in thin, laboured grunts, as a swirling electronic rattle gradually increases to a sharp, unsettling shriek. A sunken drone, one buried deep underground, paves the way for the first transition in what is a seamless progression. Thomas also has a deliciously twisted, experimental side to his music, but noisy drones eventually take over the record and place the music firmly in drone territory. These aren’t drones to take home to meet the mother, though. Unstable, yet absorbing, the drones vibrate in the void, pulling us into the pulsating, magnetic centre. Minimalist beats enter in spells, only to disappear just as quickly, as if sucked into the void, never to return. It’s the cemetery of experimental music where friends dare each other to go, despite its reputation, as spirits of static rise up and fill the air like a night spent on Bald Mountain. A fluid link through the pitch-black tunnels of the nine tracks is ensured in unknown, seamless transitions, as an absence of track titles masks their real intentions.
The droning spiral may also be seen as a sliding descent into insanity; maybe this is the delightful isolation that was so craved. It’s a dark passage through sun-abandoned paths, lit only by flickering street lights of neon triangles, and offering just tiny pools of a pale, hideous light. Daniel Thomas fires on all cylinders, lighting up a sanatorium of delinquent pulses and drones, ones that have been locked away in inner chambers, and ones that should never have seen the light of day for the good of our own health.
Slowly arriving, a bass-muffled pounding echoes as regularly as a rippling heartbeat, placing us deep inside its origins among a thunderous level of reverb. It feels like it is all around us, a previously veiled dimension of shock and awe that is suddenly knocking against our own. The pulse pounds into the conscious, shattering the mind into fragmented shards. Alarmingly, maybe it isn’t a heartbeat after all, but a mentally torn prisoner rocking against the sides of a padded confine in desperation. Perhaps this reveals another delight in isolation. This heartbeat gives a sense of progression and forward momentum, and it seemingly lies at the innermost point of the album, perhaps suggesting a cause as to why this is appearing. Eventually, the pulse spirals into a seismic void of static, a black chasm torn into our world by another galaxy, and now on a collision course with our own, much like Andromeda and the Milky Way.
Static plays an increased role as the isolation deepens, dissolving the drones into a frothing noise. There is never a sure sign as to where the music may turn next, which is both appealing, and delightfully frightening. Up until the fourth movement, any fear was only one of what may approach. Now, drowned in a spinning drone, the fear, and the noise that comes with it, rapidly spirals down into the funnels of the mind. The minotaur is out. The fifth movement acts as a respite from the swirling nightmare, until static descends and dissolves everything in a fiery blitz, scorching the piece into a bubbling, frothing mass. Cycles of intensity revolve constantly, and as we reach the chasm, a blurry insect swarm of static and noise flood outwards, bleeding through the music and staining the mind.
Deeper in, the rhythm of the heartbeat recurs, as if we are unable to escape. The music always progresses, and it does so at quite a fast pace. The eighth movement is the monstrosity which we earlier feared, a drone that has lost all sense of reason and emotion, punishing us with abrasive cathedrals of distorted noise and electricity, shaking our very perceptions of what drone music could conceivably be.
The final approach sees sweeter dreams come true, as cool, robotic breaths help to ease the noise. Isolation has never been as noisy as this. The way the music is moulded into one, immense monstrosity amid a tension that never lets up demands that we take note of Daniel Thomas. It stays in the mind like an after image of a photographic flash, all the while trying to blink away the white. The flash of a photograph being taken lights up what should have remained in the nightmare. (James Catchpole)