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Andreas Brandal – Eight Secret Messages

Andreas Brandal – “Eight Secret Messages” CD-R (Ilse, 2011)

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Andreas Brandal – Eight Secret Messages [Ilse – 2011]

Simple but mysterious artwork adorns this cd from Andreas Brandal; with the silhouette of a roof, chimney and tree on the front, and the moon on the back. To add to this, the eight titles are simply numbered: “The First”, “The Second”, “The Third”, “The Last”, etc. These eight pieces exclusively occupy drone territories, and despite the clear quality on display, this exclusiveness is arguably its one flaw.

Brandal uses a wide array of sounds on “Eight Secret Messages”. Organ drones are often to be heard; sometimes electronic, sometimes sounding more acoustic – like the failing reed organ tones on “The Fifth”. Supplementing these are lines of feedback – ranging from warm, to siren-like, to outright noisy – and synthesizer sounds, which sometimes grate thru the speakers (the blown out bass of “The Sixth”) or hover suspended (the Fabio Frizzi-esque zombie synth of “The Seventh”). Embedded in and around these drone elements are a varying assortment of percussive sounds, often of the junk variety; some raw, some processed. “The First” has a lurking, lo-fi, scraping sound; whilst the next track has a lot of surface clatter and detail. For most of the time, these non-droning elements add colour and detail, but in other places they assume a more rhythmic role – the looping guitar on “The Second”, or the rhythmic metals at the end of “The Third”. A couple of the pieces use chimes, providing some of the few overtly melodic passages on the album; although the most conspicuous of these is the proggy organ flourishes which herald the start of “The Third”.

The tracks vary quite differently in terms of construction and colour. For most of the time, the droning elements obviously dominate proceedings; but at times they are pared back to subtler proportions. The first half of “The Second” has thick, noisy drones which then subside into more ethereal, spidery tones. At some points the drones are altogether backgrounded; “The Last” starts with scratching and scraping, with the stealthiest of drones underneath. Most of the tracks are nicely balanced in terms of busyness; with some leaning towards more minimal constructions. The overall colour is ominous and dark, often eerie; though, saying this, the album actually starts off with a light, skyward feel. Whilst most of the following tracks pursue unsettling atmospheres, Brandal still finds room for “The Fifth”; which establishes a genuinely mysterious tone, without being overtly dark.

This is an album with eight great tracks, which all meditate on “the drone”. They all have quite an organic, warm sound; and there’s attention to detail without any sense of clinical academia. Each create the necessary tensions to sustain their forms, and essentially there’s very little to complain about in general. However, “Eight Secret Messages” suffers, to my ears, for being wholly committed to drone: the individual tracks are accomplished and enjoyable; but, put together, there’s a little too much of the same thing. In many respects, I think Brandal has made a brave and excellent album – he’s released eight short tracks of drone, the longest being six minutes, where some people might have got three albums worth of material by stretching the track lengths. But, for whatever reason, as a whole “Eight Secret Messages” doesn’t sit right with my ears. The cumulative effect is somewhat underwhelming, where the quality of the individual pieces deserves more.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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