Dan of Earth – Voynich Was Here (3″ CD-R, Colbeck Labs)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

Dan of Earth does some pretty cool things on Voynich Was Here; this CD-R is less a stand-alone noise release than it is dependent on the methods used to create it, and the liner notes that come with it really illuminate what Dan of Earth does with his noise and where his ideas come from. He’s a programmer, and the noise here stems from a radio source and a C++ programming algorithm which has separated a composition into parts and then reformatted it into the 20-minute track we have on the CD-R, if I understand what I’m reading correctly.

The first track on here, “Sometimes My Radio Does This,” is merely a sample of the screech Dan of Earth’s radio puts out when a car backs down the driveway; it’s included as an explanation of the source. Then we get the focal track “Voynich Was Here,” which features the radio feedback along with a bass drone rumble underneath. The bass often surges in and out, seemingly changing, while the screech remains constant, and since it was filtered through a program that scatters the individual sample over a much longer sample. What we get is not always evident; at times it sounds like there is progression, and yet the 20 minute track sounds almost entirely the same. It works in much the same way a wall does – the requisite parts never relinquish, and yet maybe they do?

The last track included is “Concentrate,” which is the same program but condensed with different squeals from the radio, and it’s definitely a more harsh noise-oriented track than “Voynich Was Here” because of the evident movement. Some might find Voynich Was Here more interesting to read about than it is to listen to, but that would be factoring out the small, subtle nuances that are difficult to pick up on. The intent listener will be focused on hearing those shifts in sound, however small they are. The way this track was created and the liner notes are so important to this release that, were one to neglect reading them, a whole world of interest would be missing.

Dan of Earth – Shed a Soft Mongoloid Tear (3″ CD-R, FTAM)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

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.

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