Downtown decline is on the rise, with the state of the economy (or lack of) affecting seemingly everyone, everywhere. Ghost towns used to exist in the Wild West; nowadays, their prevalence is such that they can even be found lurking inside a cassette tape. Dripping with a dark malevolence, this cassette – released through Komino – could reflect the monolithic mask of past industrial stamina that now creaks like an old, worn-out skeleton. Once such a steel-strong, resilent force, remnants can only now exhale a corrosive breath. Lachine, Quebec, hasn’t escaped this; the proof is in the tape.
Corrosion has found a way into the tape experimentations of Darryl Burke Mahoney. Lachine (Mahoney’s home town) as well as Toronto (his current residence) can’t escape the darkest of dark synths and subtle experimental noise, breathing in the polluted smog of once-healthy areas that have been consumed by tape-fuelled, noxious atmospherics. In place of the smog-stained statues are invisible factories drenched in rainfall; just a gritty yard where it once stood, recently demolished. These drones on tape are unstable, looming over the tape like the sickly-coloured fog of the revolution. The music reflects more than ancient industry; as with all forms of drone, it goes much deeper than mere inches below the surface. This debut spells out what we already knew: rust is everywhere.
Daubed around the experimental drones are melodies that sleepily light up for only a minute or so. On the A side, the darkness digs down deeply, piercing sharp claws around and over “Muller Hill”. Frequencies rip against the surface and bury deep underground, in dark layers of subterranean bass we never knew existed. A turbulent drone rushes through, like a long-abandoned subway tunnel catching a sweeping pocket of air. Subtle changes in the frequencies work their way through a disused network of pipes and crawlspaces that are constantly murky and ill-lit. Trapped, these drones are just as restricted as the unused buildings that cling tightly onto the past, unable to process evolution and proceed into the present.
“Rain II” doesn’t let-up either. A deep explosion of gritted debris cycles around, like soaring shards of litter creating a street’s unique tornado. A breezy melody starts to undulate upwards, and it almost offers an outlet of light. Almost. The atmosphere is a nocturnal one; puddles splash in the darkness and the steady flow of rain pounds the sidewalks. Traffic lights bleed into obscure orbs in the windshield’s blur, opaque balls of green, amber and red light shrouded by the rain. Across the street, dimly-lit alleys leave cloaked shadows dancing against the walls; we’re in the kind of drone territory our parents warned us about. Driving through, red-light districts occupy men in long, rain-soaked coats that we wouldn’t want to meet.
“Vapor” starts with a single heartbeat; one heartbeat that continues to thrive against the backdrop of a decaying world. This drone rises out of its sanctum like a spirit being called forward at a midnight seance. The stuttering static in the tape really creates an extra density here, making this spectral music – it’s pretty cool to think that the seemingly imperfect hiss in the tape is the perfect atmosphere.
“Ellraiserh” is the final port of call. There’s no way that the music could dip once again and return to the deep underground of the first side, could it? Yes, it can and it does. Tracing a line deeper, the drone rattles like crackling currents of electricity on a subway line, signalling an approaching, throbbing bass frequency that might descend lower than the world’s currencies lit up on Wall Street. Everything is grounded in the reality of a faded world, one that’s stuck in the failure of the 21st century’s first decade and the promises it could never keep.
The tape projects a new generation of unfulfilled youth and forgotten dreams that reflect lost neighbourhoods. Blue jeans are just as faded as life in a post-industrial suburb. Cuts in the jeans look like they’ve been torn by the claws of a velociraptor, and cigarettes are only dim embers on a sidewalk peppered with leftover chewing gum. You can only cover up the cracks in the sidewalk for so long, and through this exploration, Darryl Burke Mahoney has produced a dark, grinding, gritty ride that mirrors the continued fall in the rising decline. (James Catchpole)