Yann Novak - Slowly Dismantling [Room40 - 2019]
Room40 presents Slowly Dismantling, the new album (available in digital and CD formats) from Los Angeles based queer sound composer Yann Novak.I decided to dive into this album without digging into the background information, to just experience it sonically, first and foremost. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Novak’s work, so sometimes I like to go in cold when listening to a new (at least new to me) artist. Seconds into Slowly Dismantling and I can already tell that I’m in for a treat.
I’m a huge fan of what I’ll call atmospheric drone, and “All Things End, Sometimes in Fire” reveals that an atmospheric drone album is what I’m in for. Growing, vaporous drone mingles with bright resonance over the course of the opening piece. At appropriately high enough volumes, the low-end vapor really gets the interior of my car rattling. “Accumulation” follows in a similar fashion, however, the delivery is a bit more aggressive. There’s also a crispy undercurrent of static to give the track a little nuance. “We All Disappear” is really focused on low-end rumble, a perceptible buzzing synth tone, with a growing bright resonance which combines to morph into a sound that feels strangely uplifting. “The Metaphor of Party” couples what sounds like tape hiss, and intensely swarming sonic reverberations. Novak closes the album with “Again and Again Until We Feel Nothing”, a somber piece utilizing more gaseous drone, melodic ambient tones, and what sounds like amplified negative space. Taken as a whole, it’s a highly focused work, where each piece follows a similar course, yet little nuances provide character. It’s contemplative, music to think to and ultimately get lost in.
In hindsight, I took to the liner notes to discover that album is a reflection of Novak’s days growing up as a queer youth in the American Midwest. Through the music, Novak dealt with feelings of alienation, acceptance, and eventual liberation. The cover image depicts the remnants of Hotel Washington, an important hub of the queer community in Madison, WI that burned down in 1996 when Novak was 17 years old. Hal Harmon