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Rosalind Hall - Drift [Cassauna - 2019]

Rosalind Hall is an Australian avant garde musician credited with several ambient/drone recordings with stark, minimalist packaging.  Drift is the newest such release, a cassette tape released on the Cassauna label this year in 2019.  The tape features flat grey artwork and three pieces of music roughly twenty minutes each.

The entirety of the first piece takes place in the low frequency realm, a murmuring and stirring of activity underneath a heavy blanket.  There is a regular recurrent thump that forms an anchor: a percussive texture, but likely not a drum.  A siren-song of resonant feedback undulates descriptively and intentionally, winding snake-like through the subterrain.  A vision seen through steam or smoke, the dream country is invoked from behind the palpable ash dimness.  The mood created harkens back to classic stygian dark ambient records of the 90's like Lustmord's Heresy, though here there are no explicit, recognizable sounds such as tribal drums, and the volume level is kept lower.  Ghosts have been encouraged to populate this etheric ambiguity; there are the faint hints of many presences.

These drones are sourced from a saxophone with an acoustic spring verb attachment, according to the liner notes.  Though the first track is masked and reverberant enough that this is not necessarily clear, the second piece, the titular "Drift", has significantly more melodic material, and several clear instances of the signature reedy metallic tone of the sax.  Lonely foghorn tones are layered, striking dissonant forboding intervals.  The uniquely clashing overtone structure of the instrument is drawn out as the horn is made to growl, then muted and hushed again with the misty mask of reverberation.

The fact that the music is the result of an instrumental performance allows it to morph organically, carry an immediacy and remain engaging through its many pockets of shifting irregularity.  Rosalind has made another case for the incredible timbral richness of acoustic instruments as sources for electronic ambient music, joining the work of my favorite groups such as Aglaia, Alio Die or Tenhornedbeast, who created doom ambience out of guitar in a similar manner as Rosalind Hall uses a sax.

The recording may not be for everyone, as it maintains a very low energy level, and does not build into a drastically new realm at any point, generally being a sleepy, nocturnal record.  The three pieces do not contrast widely from each other.  That said, it has a vast amount of tonal variety and evocative qualities.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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