Surfacing just above the eye-line, the ever-deep, always on transmission of Extant enters, calling you invitingly closer, nearer to heavens unseen. A slab of slow-burning drone penetrates the silence, and stays for the duration. A cosmic trance sets in; there is no escape. You are left directly gazing at the distant stars that, drifting out of focus, seem to resemble an all-seeing eye.
Extant, the cover art of which bears a passing resemblance to Steve Roach’s classic Dreamtime Return, shares a futuristic, almost new-age atmosphere (although this new-age of drone is dark to the point of jet-black), arriving in the shape of mystical incantations and higher, spiritual entities. Extant could mirror Dreamtime Return in philosophy, if not soundscape – the drone is essentially a void into the dark reaches of the future, strengthened with hints of invasive sci-fi. A change is in the air, and this change – and that of the unknown – is always a prime target for fear. Extant, like her imagery, is the precipice into a new age, but it is a renewal that’s still haunted with fear and past struggle. Her drones have never seen the light of daybreak. This exit point may be the pupil of an awakening eye, rising on the new, first dawn.
Extant does not feel the scorching heat in the sun-sparkled setting of the Australian outback. It’s clear that we’re a long way from Australia, higher than continents, deep in space. It feels distant in relation to any sun, in an atmosphere receiving almost no heat at all.
oh/ex/oh conjure up signals from beyond, on ghost-box frequencies that carry faraway voices isolated from life. And it’s because of this distance that Extant feels strangely cold. It isn’t until “Burners” that the pace really picks up, and even then it is an after-burn of seismic drone slowly rebuilding itself after an extinction. Almost as if they never completely crawl out of the recesses, the drones slither along at a sedate pace. This also allows the intensity to really sky-rocket. You’ll have to keep a cautious eye on the music – just because it’s slow, it doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. The futuristic deity of “The Holy Fallout” is also one decaying in crumbling ruin. The only clear voice on the record thunders out an ancient creed divided by reality, in a parallel realm not of our own destiny. Carved images of Gods are indented upon severed shrines of stone; a temple of the imagination.
Never demanding, the drones don’t seem to follow any real course, and yet they appear shaped by mysterious, invisible hands. “STS-115” is only a timid breath, but it’s one capable of exploding at any moment. Letting off exhalations of dry steam, the preparation of a shuttle’s rocket booster, the drone lies subdued for now. For now. And while we wait, a sense of excited anticipation rises out of the hiss, ascending into the cosmos and then evaporating; concealed out of sight, but not out of mind.
Sinking deep underground, these drones are lost in dark catacombs, searching in vain for the hope of light. Nostalgia kicks in – a melancholic remembrance of a lost friend, still a painful event on waking. In this new, darker age, our inability to believe the truth cocoons us in a subtle wave of deep, potent drone that has been shaped by the sadness of decay. For this new world is littered with apocalyptic remnants and reminders of a recently lost civilisation.
“The Last Days“, arrives in the upper echelons of the sky, burning up in the azure of the stratosphere and sending up cloudy symbols, sky-scribbled hieroglyphics, of masked origin. “Close Encounters” sends out an electronic pulse of the fourth kind, radiating vivid lights of amazing colour. And then, the synths disappear.
There’s no return, and no recollection of our way back. Instead of this being frightening, it’s actually a really peaceful feeling of acceptance and awe-struck wonder. Now we believe. For far out in the heavens, the beauty of distant stars become close enough to touch. Extant asks questions to which we do not know the answers, but through listening we walk ever closer and closer to the truth. As the day breaks, you realise you are alone. “The Third Eye” opens, looking out at the exit and the future awaiting. It’s an opportunity to take strides into a new world promising heaven and desolation, and an opportunity to start afresh among the devastation. Embrace destiny. (James Catchpole)