Dan of Earth’s new album, Shed a Soft Mongoloid Tear, depicts a bleakness in its artwork. The cover is a gray-scale photograph of a house taken after the trees had shed their leaves on a somber-looking day, and the back shows more of the same with a fuzzy playground. Even the disc, with its spattered gray paint, hints at a foreboding atmosphere.
And it’s appropriate that the first track “Dog” maintains a dark thematic tone, with pulsing background drone and sped-up radio conversation. It’s difficult to pick out dialogue, which seems to foster the idea that the speech is not the important focal point of the track, but instead it is a medium of the soundscape which gives the track an odd juxtaposition: the slow-moving drones coupled with the unnatural speech creates an interesting conflict, not because of the compositional complexity but instead because of the lack of it. Yet the track seems to waver outside the bounds of the rest of Shed a Soft Mongoloid Tear, and it’s a strange opener to an album full of a
“This is the Golden Hour” changes things up greatly from the drones of the opener, instead opting for a tribal, tom-tom drum beat behind jungle-tinged sounds; a sense of buzzing and chirping, monkey-esque hollering. A very distorted growling runs through the track, as though lyrics are being recited by Dan of Earth, but again it’s as though the importance of the sound is elevated above any meaning to the language. Unlike “Dog,” “This is the Golden Hour” is very rhythmic, and its primitive sound is attractive, even if it does stray significantly from the opener.
“Carrizo Plain” continues the natural sound, with chirps and soft pings of noise, along with a low buzz of feedback far down in the register. I’d venture a guess that these sounds have been created rather than found, and according to the liner notes, Dan of Earth used electronics, acoustics, and C++ programming; the lack of mentioning found sound indicates that this track has been created, and it does sound more digital when compared to real bird sounds. The track’s sparseness does little for me, however, and when compared to the more active tracks before it, the track seems too passive and stoic.
“A Happier Orbit” returns to “Dog”‘s form, with drones and whispery background tones, along with a sense of sweeping brushes to carry it along. Again, the ideas present in the two drone tracks seem in contrast to those of the more tribal lens; though they’re both well-done ( especially “A Happier Orbit”), they are thematically opposite. The same can be said of “Tourette’s Machine,” the album closer; it’s full of interesting sounds, some which generate animalistic or tribal sounds, but it differs greatly from the majority of the album, making it better as a stand-alone track than one incorporated within the confines of Shed a Soft Mongoloid Tear.
While the lack of defined structure threw me, the breadth of Dan of Earth’s sound is nicely documented on this short 3″, and the interesting methods the artist uses to generate noise – mainly that of homebuilt electronics and C++ programs, creates an interesting listen, even if the listener might have a difficult time hearing the significance of the sound sources.