How often does a release make one excited enough to seek out an artist’s back catalog? Not often, but Deep Opacity is the exception. This drone-based electronic work is awash in color and texture, and should win Ian Kennedy (Attenuated) a much larger audience. As on previous works The Central Region and Night of Sense, the artist’s combination of melodic chords and abrasive drones coalesces into a gorgeous refraction. Credit the combination of processed organ, saxophone and synth, which lend his music the sheen of a classical recording while preserving the edge of the futuristic. Whether building from slow, oscillating tones (“Pendulum”) or balancing on shifting sands (“Quartz”), Kennedy impresses with a vast array of aural techniques.
Detroit has not had much to cheer about lately. The crumbling infrastructure and financial woes have inspired one memorable joke (from Scary Movie 4) and a recent filing for city bankruptcy. One can’t help but think of Deep Opacity as the product of its environment. Still known for its music scene, from Motown to techno, the city rests on a bed of sonic inspiration. Happy times inspired soulful sounds; increased urbanization and mechanization lent the city an electronic pulse. Today the city is in need of a new sound, one that reflects injured hearts and stubborn hopes; Attenuation fits that bill. When listening, one thinks of dirt and grime (opacity) but also the spit and shine. Roughly speaking, these occupy Sides A and B of the tape, although the listening experience is best taken as a whole.
The opening track alone is worth the price of entry. “Quartz” begins with synthesized sax tones that exude the timbre of bagpipes. Over the next 18 minutes, the song mutates, passing through multiple phases on its way to a satisfying conclusion: from ambient to abrasive, processed to pure. In phase two (delineated by silence), human pipes join organ pipes; static sounds latch to note. In the next, acoustic guitar is joined by rustles and clicks.
Wordless female vocals (contributed by Michelle Collett) grace “Plainsong”, which builds from quiet to loud before subsiding to a meditative glow. The slow pulse of SIde B’s “Pendulum” brings to mind the work of Petrels, especially when the drones wrestle late in the track; this comparison continues to hold true on “Technical Individuals”, which incorporates the sound of a crossing gate (or its relative) and dances into an array of bells at 6:56, providing the album with its most subdued and enchanting section. A dog barks exactly one minute later. As “Dilate” closes, the volume surges one last time, flooding the ears to such an extent that an after-echo is produced: the ghost of the final note, reluctant to retreat. (Richard Allen)