For his Touch debut, Zachary Paul joins a relatively long history of radical dronesters and minimalists that aim not for you to experience music differently but to alter your very perception of reality. The first two tracks are tied to a place and time (“3:30 PM Lake Perris”, for the first, and “9:30 PM Downtown”, for the second) while the third one consists of a soundtrack to a short film about an actor’s inner life: sound is a bridge extending outwards from our skin and into the world. It is, of course, not a bridge made of concrete and steel, but one that has an emotional foundation, the kind of bricks and stones that lead more than a few to see sound and hear color, a mutability that shifts with every passing second.
Both “Premonition” and “Slow Ascent” are improvised, and each depicts an emotional soundscape of a story told in vast violin harmonies. The earlier reflects a warm and bright afternoon at the back of which loomed a deafening storm, Paul’s playing an entrancing daydream able to map every moment, from the quietude of sunrays to the dissonance of the clouds that would distort them. As the storm approaches, “Premonition” grows in intensity, its tones sweeping upward, a translation in which nothing is lost – the sky rumbles, announcing the fiery paths of lightning that will roar from the ground to strike above. The meditation lays down the bridge, a communion with nature in which the mind extends into the body as it also grasps everything around it in every sweep of the violin’s bow. The rain materializes in acute, indistinguishable drones upon which fast, short, indefinite sounds ring, eventually giving way to an uncertain mass both distant and immediate. Discord flows throughout the world, but instead of ending it, discord illuminates it.
As “Slow Ascent” begins, that extension into the world snaps back towards another kind of meditation, one that traces a path within. Performed as an “inverted guided group meditation” (which I suppose means that instead of one leading the many, the many lead the one in the journey), the drones are much warmer and longer, expressing no translation of fragmented exterior phenomena but one of unity, of a peaceful inner state that is constantly in movement, constantly harmonizing every contradiction, every instinct, every rational process. The performer himself becomes a communicating vessel, allowing the objective nature of sound frequencies become the primary site of an expression beyond words and chants; the communion here is between an audience and an instrument of their own shaping. Discord seems like an event, but it instead becomes the process without which there would be no harmony at the end.
The last track, “A Person With Feelings”, points the way towards another kind of meditation: as we identify with or reject a character on-screen, we step further outside or inside ourselves, and our inner lives grow paradoxical. The drones here are less oriented by the idea of a soundscape and instead attempt to clearly push emotions and images away/into the listener, ending with a dissonant screech that will leave no one unscathed. Discord here is an event, one so punishing it will either attract or repel, leaving nothing in between.
Paul’s debut is a powerful piece of drone, worthy of those who have seen music as a field of experience. It will hopefully change and challenge your perception, but only if you listen to it at full volume, allowing you to see it completely. (David Murrieta Flores)