Dull Knife is the drone project of Garek Druss and Adam Svenson. On this record, they offer up two 15-minute sides (around that time, at least) that combine the mesmerizing abilities of an unbroken droning with electronics that intensifies those sounds. Dull Knife, their self-titled LP, is not harsh but it is also not a record that is meant for a quiet evening of contemplation. It falls somewhere in the middle, a study in how melancholy tones can morph into grim ones.
The first side is titled “Excavating,” and it does start out with a dig-like sound that echoes on until Dull Knife decide to branch out. Texture is key to their pieces, and the drones are not just a couple lines of synth sounds left to roam. Instead, Dull Knife operate under the assumption that multiple drones are better than one, which makes “Excavating” seem very busy even when the sound is rather simple. Buzzy synth lines blend with soaring ones; there’s a looping rhythm underneath it all that adds a percussive element. Occasional bursts of electronics whir to and fro. Without paying much attention it might just seem like Dull Knife are going through the motions, but there’s a lot to listen for in this track, especially as some of the drones overtake others. And there’s a shift about halfway through that hits that line between grim and absolutely melancholy that works very well.
The flip side of this record is called “The Fallow Field of Vision,” which actually starts out the opposite of the griminess of the first. There’s a fairly clean organ drone joined with just the hint of whistles; it’s cold and sad and a little bit like Godspeed You! Black Emperor when they’re coming down from a particularly aggressive movement. Eventually the track adds a lilting synth part to the drone, then adds the fuzzy texturing chords that give the track a sort of funky rhythm; there’s a sense that we’re not coming down from a high, but beginning the ascent.
Ultimately it’s a good way to end a great drone record, and Dull Knife are surprisingly adept at crafting illustrious, shimmery sounds without slipping into the same patterns as others doing the same thing. Dull Knife is worth a pick-up for both its sleekly dark packaging and its pleasantly aggressive tones.