Compilation Week kicks off with an entry from the brand-new Fields Label, compiled by HXDK. Last year the artist impressed us with The Letting Go; now he’s helping to call attention to worthy artists in the field of drone.
In the old days, compilations were typically found in physical formats, and cost the same (or more!) as single-artist albums. These compilations served multiple purposes, not the least of which was to call attention to a label’s roster. The best compilations presented new material and called attention either to the individual artists or to a theme. Back then (and we’re only talking a decade ago), prospective purchases were tempted by the inclusion of bonus tracks from their favorite artists; if they were lucky, they’d also discover some new ones. Much has changed since then; in the digital era, many fans will simply grab the tracks they want and ignore the rest. This is a shame, because it does a disservice to the other artists and by extension, to the listener as well, who may be robbed of a worthwhile experience.
Big names can entice listeners to make a purchase, and seeing Pimmon, Radere, Sun Hammer, Ektoise, Porya Hatami, Tropic of Coldness and of course HXDK may be enough for our readers to go by. But there are some nice surprises here as well. In the new era, most listeners won’t know who they’re listening to before checking the track listing; once upon a time, people just looked at the back cover of the record or CD. So it’s somewhat gratifying to find when one’s estimated favorites are indeed one’s favorites, but it’s pretty cool to find one from left field.
The highlights of the set arrive at the beginning and the end. Pimmon’s nine-minute “Nesmerloc” reminds us of the progress this artist has made in the past year; nearly everything recorded under this name is now a must-hear. Layer upon layer of drafty drones play upon the track’s unstable surface, like tissue paper in the wind. Tropic of Coldness (featured in our “Best Winter Music” feature) follow immediately in Pimmon’s wake with the aptly named “Building Blocks”, continuing to build on the strong foundation of last year’s debut EP. This track is just as icy, but provides the hope of a thaw with the addition of piano and processed strings. Late in the album, Radere (our drone artist of the year) reminds us of why he’s swiftly becoming the drone world’s version of a household name. Over the course of ten minutes, “Rain Shadow” shuffles, shimmers and glows, as textured, grainy drones find their contrast in crackly, crunchy precipitation.
The new name to watch is Phirnis, who has been recording since 2009 and has built up a wealth of excellent drone and field recording work, accessible through his home page. ”Cleansing” is only 2:36, but it was enough to make me want to hear more, and I’m confident that it will have the same effect on others. I expect we will be hearing a lot from Phirnis in the near future. Fields fulfills its multiple purposes, and I’m already looking forward to the second installment. (Richard Allen)