“Dronegaze” is the word that Ryan Huber (Sujo, Olekranon) uses to describe the sound of his new project, a collaboration with Sean Moore (Lid Emba). We’re usually leery of new genre tags, but in this case, Huber has gotten it perfectly right. Dhow is about as dronegazey as one might imagine.
Percussion dominated the first phase of construction. Huber asked Moore to construct the skeletons for two of these pieces, and in light of this knowledge, it’s interesting to listen to what Moore is doing. If there were ever such a thing as a “shoegaze beat”, Moore captures it: repetitive, but not directly repeating, a live imitation of a drum machine. To provide variety, the drums often vanish for short stretches; this allows Huber to showcase his own contributions.
As expected, Huber adds a layer or two of swirled guitars, the hallmark of the popular 80s genre. These tend to float in clouds above the reverb pedal, waiting for humidity to weigh them down. Submerged bass is detectable through the grey. But Huber’s more unique contribution is the drone, which happens to be his specialty. “Act of Grace” begins with a clear sustained chord, reminiscent of Sujo; then the drums are added, then the additional elements. While it would be easy to simply place a sustained note under each track, Huber has something more devious in mind. “Corinthian” ends with an odd duet between guitar note and electronic crunch. It may be only coincidence, but the album was released at the same time as The Corinthian reappeared in Neil Gaiman’s work, and this piece sounds perfect for a character whose eyes are filled with shiny teeth. The 3-minute “Genoa” is the busiest track, with both sustained drones and blasts of electronic noise. In the final minute, the noise is revealed to be the sound of manipulated voices. A trace of static remains on the closing track, which returns once more to the 50/50 blend; and so, dronegaze it is. The term may not catch on as quickly as dubstep, but the blend works, and we’d love to hear more of it. (Richard Allen)