The word “drone” was coined to describe the sound made by the male bee. Over time, this definition was expanded to include any sort of low continuous hum. Our Drone section covers sound art in this spectrum. Yet in recent years, another sort of drone has stolen the spotlight: the aggressive, ever-present military drone. This new album seeks to categorize and incorporate such sounds in a musical format.
Side A is the didactic side, fascinating in its efforts to collect and document the sounds of specific drones. Even the names intimidate: Reaper, Harpy, Predator, Hawk. Each sound is introduced by a benign voice, seeking – yet failing – to balance the mood. These are the last sounds many people will hear. To others, they are simply the sound of fear. Death comes from the skies, and the anticipation of death casts a cold shadow over a helpless populace.
What happens when these sounds are put together? On Side B, Cardoso arranges Pater’s sounds into a terrifying soundscape. Beginning with screws and rods, reminiscent of a dentist’s drill set, the sound artist proceeds to add turbines and whirrs, then a musical glue. The added chords contribute a sense of foreboding inevitability. As the drones are joined by other weaponized machinery, the impression is that of unstoppable forces gathering en masse – in essence, a hive. The clanks and buzzes are the real-life reflection of Skynet in action: a robotic fiction punching its way into the present.
A temporary respite arrives with the warmth of birdsong, but this is simply the calm before the metallic storm, a reminder of last minute innocence. The approaching propellers provide a stark contrast to the flapping of wings. The same holds true late in the piece, with the introduction of song, although this instance lends itself to multiple interpretations. Perhaps beauty is about to be reduced to rubble, the notes disintegrating in ash. Or perhaps beauty is reaffirmed despite the ongoing suggestion of doom. Either way, Cardoso presents the sound of an unwelcome 21st century intrusion. Big Brother is here, and now he has guns. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 18 December