Daniel Menche - The Soaring [SIGE 90 - 2020]Portland avant gardist Daniel Menche stands out in my memory for his incredibly harsh, unapologetically inaccessible noise works like Guts, Screaming Caress, or The Face of Vehemence. It appears he's tried something different this time around, as this smooth, acqueous work of melodic drone sounds more like something out of the Zen ambient scene than anything I would associate with Menche.
The acoustics of this sound space are satisfyingly vast, sounding like the natural reverb of a stone church or cave. The monastic cathedral feeling is a first for Menche, and reminds me a bit of David Jackman / Organum's shift into a sort of christian themed spiritual drone at the end of his career, with albums like Omega.
Smoothly undulating waves of processed cello share the foreground with human voices singing long tones in open vowels, alternating patiently in succession, and creating the impression of a long continuous tone with a string of intersecting pieces. The soothingly warm, harmonious glimmering of the enveloping, gently drifting soundspace serves to elongate one's perception of time, drawing the awareness into its steady glide. It is a wonderful piece for sleep and relaxation, never jarring the listener from its flow.
The dynamic, breatheable production perfectly highlights the natural vibrancy of the organic sound sources, making this album a multi-dimensional and inviting environment. I am reminded of other favorite instrumental ambient projects; the underwater orchestrations of Kyle Bobby Dunn, the textured brassy richness of Deep Listening Band, and the singing bowl tones of Oophoi.
The Soaring stands as one of my favorite works by Daniel Menche, and one that could be enjoyed by listeners far outside of his usual realms of noise and pure avant garde. I would highly recommend this piece of fans of Oophoi, Steve Roach, Alio Die and other Zen ambient.Josh Landry