Shades by Nathan Moody

Nathan Moody | Shades
Noisejockey (CS/DL)

Californian sound designer and musician Nathan Moody adds to an already impressive catalogue of dark, expansive electronic music with this new album.  It finds the artist creating an immersive, and often oppressive, suite of tracks where glints of light only occasionally push through the cracks.  This is an album whose pieces have been performed as opposed to arranged, with Moody improvising on synthesizers and tape loops.  And there is a definite feeling of falling into the void here, a sense of urgency and unpredictability that can only really be achieved through the artist losing himself in the moment.

The album begins with The Initiate, which revs into life with throbbing low-slung loops over which a sharper drone begins to insinuate itself.  This is heavy music, like guitar feedback being experimented on by specific microphone placement at the amplifiers.  Smaller sounds slowly attach themselves to the loop, like deep sea barnacles on the bottom of a huge ice-dredger. 

Coming From Within lulls the listener into a false sense of security with its ebbing and aching ambient intro before a granite-hard shard of noisy synth breaks the illusion.  But this is definitely ambient music, just one with considerable bite.  I’m not a huge fan of the term “dark ambient”, but in this case it literally is.

Video: Coming From Within

So far, the tracks have been slow, cavernous affairs, but Beckoning adds some squirming life to the proceedings.  The cascading, atonal drones are still present and correct, but the feedback splutters into smaller pieces and even approach a kind of fractured melody in places.  It’s like free jazz meets Isolationism and the two work surprisingly well together.

The overall tone, or should I say shade, of the collection is of charcoals and greys, so this isn’t for the fainthearted.  These tracks don’t let up, and the beautifully named The Dose Makes the Poison certainly doesn’t plan to get any brighter, but it does strip a few layers off, and is the most minimal track here.  With just a handful of sounds, it conjures a fantastical dream world that borders on paranoia.

The Last Supplicant is also the last track.  Beginning with a fog horn drone, finally there is a little bit of light, in the form of brighter tones that escape the wails, and then elongate into barely controlled feedback squeals that are weirdly uplifting and end the album on a quasi-euphoric note.

An album like this is pretty hard to classify, it just revels in its own existence and encourages the listener to go with the flow of its creator’s intuition and enjoy the ride.  Some may find the intensity suffocating, but for others who can hold their breath long enough and plunge into these sonic depths, there is much to admire.

Paintings by Johan G. Winthers
Design by Corey Holms

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