With the seemingly limitless mass of drone albums out there, it is tempting, even for a sympathetic listener like myself, to dismiss much of the lot as the sonic equivalent of a warm bath: immersive and pleasant but little more than a balm for overtaxed ears. With Phase, there is no such temptation. This is drone in its more intense, bracing form and it is far from soporific. The album consists of a single 39-minute piece. It is an amalgamation of recordings by Jason Kahn and Jon Mueller that were made over the course of a brief U.S. tour, which were later mixed by Kahn to create this larger, epic drone.
Both Kahn and Mueller are originally drummers, but, while they still use traditional acoustic percussion instruments, they do so in very untraditional ways. They are used more as resonators in conjunction with electronics, microphones and feedback. As a duo, Kahn and Mueller work with a variety of gongs, drums, cymbals, synthesizers and other electronics to create a broad spectrum of sharp textures and sounds. In Phase these sounds — the shivering of metal, the rattle of the drum head, the hum and pulse of feedback — slip in and out of phase with one another (hence the album’s title). This roiling hive of noise gets more active as you listen. And the louder the volume, the more is revealed. What at first seems like an impenetrably dense, almost static, wall of sound morphs almost imperceptibly over the course of the piece, as waves of howling metal and vague intimations of ghostly voices collide, meld and move on. It’s not exactly a soothing bath-time experience, but it is a thrilling, disorienting, and quite startlingly gorgeous piece. ---- By Susanna Bolle