If you are a fan of Ambient/Drone (you probably wouldn’t be here if you weren’t) the name Harry Towell would be one you were quite familiar with. Harry records as Spheruleus (and also Magnofon) and has appeared on labels such as Home Normal, Hibernate, Analogpath and Time Released Sound to name a few. He also runs the Audio Gourmet, Tessellate, Whitelabrecs and Warehouse Decay labels and started the Irregular Crates blog/label.
Josco (aka Gerard McDermott) is a writer, photographer, curator and sound designer from the Republic of Ireland. He is currently based in China. He has previously released on the Somehow Recordings label and has created compilations devoted to Irish music.
“Folded Distance” which was recorded between March 2011 to March 2016 “is a record about travel, but it is also about staying where you are and staying where you feel you belong. One of us moved around a lot and the other stayed relatively still; although we were geographically separated, we could communicate instantly across the incredible land mass between us -the more we set about weaving Josco’s drones and the exotic sounds of Asia with the sleepy rustic fields of Lincolnshire and Spheruleus’ instruments, the more the concept of “Folding Distance” became apparent to us, and the more it became realised by us.” The album was influenced by distance and the artists ability to communicate and collaborate weaving their sound recordings (from Turkey, Ireland, UK, Morocco and Thailand) to their own experiences. The album was mastered by Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood.
“Samila” presumably influenced by the beach in Thailand opens with the squall of a storm with static billowing and wind like drones that emerge from the dying storm. The drones are layered giving different tones and are looped with an almost exhaling like sound. The field recordings of the environment return as the storm/wind pans from side to side with granular sound before acoustic guitar comes in gives the track a different feel, one of contemplation. By the end of the track the ebbing storm has taken over and it fades to silence.
“Kilis” presumably after the small town on the Turkey / Syria border features acoustic guitar over field recordings of conversations (possibly workers at a market?) while Synth drones soar above and below. The elements pan from side to side with the occasional field recorded music entering the mix. The drones dominate the track but don’t convey the tortured recent and past history of the place. That said there is a mournful quality to them.
“Tungsao” containing field recordings of the market place of the same name is an environmental sounding drone piece, with wind like drones that are cut up, utilization of field recordings to form sounds, recorded traditional percussion, delicate piano, cooking sounds like glitches all thrown into the mix. You get the feeling of something similar to the Freeform albums that came out on the Quartermass label back in 2001/2, like this piece is an audio diary to a specific experience.
“Praterstern” named after a station on the line U1 and line U2 of the Vienna U-bahn is the noisiest track on the album thus far. Opening with low-frequency noises, static, some sort of indefinable noise like things being dragged (but with effects), vinyl crackle, short intertwined drones, a very low bass noises and electronic rubble noises.
“Kru Ze” the longest track on the album starts of with what sounds like an airplane getting ready to take off, joined by sounds of decay, electronic bells, guitar like feedback drones, static dissonance, jarring drone. But while there is a darker element to the track, it is not too bleak.
“Solva” a fishing town is on the lower west coast of Wales and this track is a welcome respite to the ferocity of “Kru Ze”. It contains looped vocal drones alongside traditional ones. There is almost warped pastoral feel, like if a piano accordion that was broken was being played in short bursts of sound. As the track progresses there is a wash of noisier environmental degradation with the looped vocal being the counterpoint to the growing storm and clattering noises.
This album is different to one that I was expecting. I was expecting a rather straight forward pairing of two distinct sound sources in a more ambient fashion. What we get is a more environmentally born album that is open to the interpretation of each listener. There is a lot of depth to the tracks and the density is apparent. For listeners who prefer the noisier end of the Ambient/Drone spectrum.