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How much is there one can write about a monotonous piece of ambient drone? As I was in search of Atavist's full-length albums, I came across this collaboration with Nadja, a Canadian band who I have come to love and cherish over recent months. So, I decided i'd give it a whirl and see what it was like.
This isn't the most mind-blowing piece of work. Its not heavy, its not fast paced and nor is it one spectacular solo after another. Its beauty is subtle. A collage of repetitive riffs, placed one after another swells and is about ready to burst into a fast paced explosion of massive proportions. Perhaps a disappointment to most, this never truly gets going. Its slow and very rarely changes. When it does, its subtle but entrancing. Subtlety is imperative as both Nadja and Atavist struggle to get this piece heard over the hundreds of ambient drone bands out there.
Although subtlety reigns supreme, one comes to find it increasingly important to the outcome. Beautiful melodies and sweeping riffs crash together like waves onto a wall. No vocals are present, so it may take the listener some time to both appreciate this full-length and also to gain the patience to get through this in one sitting, which is needed due to both lack of vocals and the intimidating song lengths of the two tracks. I believe song length is a major turn-off to many. Most people have no time for songs that increase over the six minute mark as it can become quite draining. This collaboration is certainly that.
The repetitive style, which offers little or no variation is testing on the mind, body and soul. Its not until the heavy, low tuned bass comes to the foreground that any significant impact will be made. The lack of drums may be off putting as the music relies far too heavily on making an impact via other means, as well as the lack of lyrics due to there being no vocals. However, given this lack of both vocals and lyrics, both Nadja and Atavist do a surprisingly good job at making this a somewhat spiritual release. Drums can offer relief in terms of becoming a driving force, but do not let that take away from the brilliant musicianship behind this release. The swirling riffs and dark ambience have the ability to penetrate the mind and delve deep into the pit of your soul. '12012291920 / 1414101' is awe inspiring.
This is the epitome of drone. Crushing low bass, a distinctive ambient and atmospheric nature and swelling riffs which are fit to burst. Certainly not for the faint at heart.
Nadja's frenetic, prolific album release shows no signs of abating. There's this out, a new collab with FFB, another reworked older album coming out soon, and a new EP and full length. Combined with Aidan Baker's huge amount of solo release action, you really have to wonder.. does this guy ever do anything else? Does he live and sleep in a studio? Maybe, but regardless, most of his releases are of a very high quality.
Atavist, meanwhile, aren't nearly as prolific as Nadja. However, their output, while quite sparse, is also of a very high quality. These guys traffic in a very sludgy sort of doom (bringing to mind Khanate, Eyehategod and all that slow 'n' low stuff) that incorporates some interesting influences, whether it's the occaisonal bit of stoner rock-ism, or some delicate clean guitars.
So it looks like an interesting match, right? Well, that doesn't necessarily mean that's it's going to be all that good. Nadja and FFB looked like a match made in heaven, but instead we got a huge slab of brutal, inaccessible drone. I was afraid this would turn out a similiar way, but luckily there's none of that. Indeed, this album is a very gentle and ambient one, bringing to mind Baker's solo albums instead of any lumbering riffs you thought these guys might have conjured.
Well, that's not to say that there's no big guitars on here. For the most part, though, this album seems to be more about a relaxed, sonic exploration, with most parts of the album consisting of mellow, laid back guitars and synths slowly unfolding and building. While the many mellow parts are lush and haunting, they are also really slow, and while test many people's patience. It's definitely true that this album is hard to listen to just by itself.. But it does make a great bit of music for late night listening.
Of course, some parts of this album make late night listening a bit more ominous. The heavier parts in this album are more Atavist-y then Nadja-ish, consisting of low, crunching drones with some truly huge bass. The songs do indeed take a while to get to the heavier parts, but the heavy parts are very satisfying, quite huge and ominous. There's some nice middle ground in the last song too, which eschew the 'big drone/quiet drift' style, instead opting for some sort of middle ground, with most of the song relying on long, tranquil guitar drones.. Basically, a slightly more distorted version of the first song.
Admittedly, there really isn't that much happening within these tracks. Both of them are really long, spacey drone jams, quite sparse and moving very slowly, playing the notes and letting them intertwine and unfold. A lot of people will probably find this boring, and that's totally fair enough, but if you're down with some nice slo-mo ambient then you may well dig this music.