Audible textures of the most evocative variety come slipping through the cracks between a swelling percussive presence as we listen-in on the first few moments of “Countdown,” the first of twenty tracks comprising the new album Time Machine from Drum Dynasty. Though incredibly minute in comparison to the monolithic entities we’re going to come across in the new hour, the structure of “Countdown” is almost more important than its actual sonic emittances are. Here, we will experience the depth of the thrusting pulsations that soon shape the whole of our listening experience; only in this instance they’re far more streamlined than they will be in the next couple of tracks.
MORE ON DRUMMER BRUCE BURGESS: https://www.moderndrummer.com/2008/08/bruce-burgess/
Following the four minute ignition sequence that is the opening cut in Time Machine, we dive right into the grind of an industrial soundscape with “Asteroid Field,” which features a guttural mix seemingly sourced from the archives of COUM. As if to suggest that friction of two aural plates rubbing against each isn’t enough tonal conflict for the speakers, “Wormhole” follows with what initially feels like a gut-feeling specifically restyled for the purposes of a stereophonic recording. It’s ominous and a little clandestine (to start), but by the time we’re breaking into the latter half of the performance, the ground beneath us is starting to shake from a heck of a lot more than a scatter-shot drumbeat.
From the perspective of the casual noise fan, there isn’t a lot about the progressive fashion in which Time Machine has been constructed that lines up with the atonality and abrasiveness of, say, a vintage record from Merzbow or Masonna — however, if you listen closely enough to something like “Lightspeed” or even its tracklist neighbors in the stealth “Supernova” and synthetically dark “Pulsar,” you’re going to find the influence nonetheless. Anything produced with this kind of an emphasis on muscularity (despite the atmospheric nature of the actual music) is bound to make seasoned audience members think of early Orb or Seefeel as much as they would a no wave composition like those created by Glenn Branca, but in this context it’s a rather impressive feat.
“Darkmatter” presses the needle closer to traditional ambient territory before turning us over to the likes of a piercingly minimalistic “Seven Sisters,” possibly the most disturbingly translucent document included in this tracklist. “Seven Sisters” is both paper-thin and blisteringly inescapable in its melodic lashing, and when consumed ahead of “Zero Gravity” or a furiously exotic “March of the Mutants,” it isn’t difficult to appreciate its lack of embellishment — nor the profound emptiness it seems to exude so passionately.
The unraveling of “Electric Eye” acts as our official segue into the second act in Time Machine, but it isn’t until we find the assault of angry percussion and faded synth melodies in “Hyperdrive Malfunction” that the tension this portion of the LP will be built upon makes itself completely known to the listener. Despite a lush and fluid transition that takes us from the deep space of “Hypersleep” to the sting of our awakening in “Signs of Life,” nothing is feeling conventional or even somewhat predictable here as the title track begins to pour into the air around us in a vast, though fleeting, drone. It is now when the brash suggestions of earlier moments found in “Darkmatter” and “Supernova” find some quarter to really get into our heads — only in this instance they won’t be controlled by a suffocating master mix.
While it’s on the simpler side for my taste, there’s a chills-factor in “Event Horizon” that definitely caught my interest when sitting down with this record for the very first time just recently, but when paired with “Vortex,” both tracks take on a much weightier and aesthetically significant value. Pulling us down the rabbit hole and deeper into the clutches of an impossible dark and anti-material tike realm is the synth — a surprisingly important component in this drum-centric ambient affair — and with every passing moment that brings us closer to an eruption in “Black Hole,” it becomes all the harder to evade.
Drum Dynasty find unlikely catharsis in the climax of “Black Hole” that gives way to the passive glow of “Aurora Borealis” before we even know what to do with it, but much like the other dramatic segues we encounter in Time Machine, this too doesn’t feel rushed but instead entirely deliberate. Artistically speaking, there are few avenues through which one can magnify the emotional subtext of an ambient track as perfectly as taking us from peak to valley with incredible (and otherwise crude) speed does, and this is proven true as we near the conclusion of this LP. Winding down feels as pivotal to the understanding of the release here as the build-up does, which isn’t something that I’m able to say about many of the ambient works that come across my desk from year to year.
Time Machine finds a way to bring all of this full-circle with “Pale Blue Dot,” the final bow in its extensive tracklist, but while this piece feels far more colorful and indebted to the versatilities of an emerging post-rock genre than anything preceding it does, it actually feels like the right way to end this album for a couple of important reasons. Chief among them all, I think Drum Dynasty were out to demonstrate an aesthetical complexity in this complete record that wouldn’t have been possible with a more straightforward finish — by bringing us across the finish line beside cascading simple percussion, strings, a distant piano and, inevitably, cryptic spoken word instead of a larger than life synthesizer part, it tells me consistency was not the centerpiece of this endeavor. Rebelling against the very notion of certainty was the mission here, and to me, that’s what makes Time Machine a difficult LP for any true audiophile to put down.