Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ProtoU & Hilyard- "Alpine Respire" (2017)

I recently made a commitment to quit behaving like a slave to the demands and deadlines in my inbox and function more like the classic download blogs this was inspired by. I'm not about to hand out free music after six years of keeping things legal, but blogs like SVN OKKLT and Salt Goat (R.I.P.) inspired me to focus on curation rather than timeliness. There is so much music I love and find captivating that simply isn't new. Sometimes new music catches my attention. Today alone, I had two things hit my inbox that I was thrilled to hear, but I can't pretend that this blog is a repository of all things current. Quality over all else, right? With that in mind, here's a dark ambient gem that I received approximately a year ago from Cryo Chamber and still find quite captivating.

ProtoU and Hilyard may be operating on entirely separate continents, but their collaborative work in Alpine Respire is so singular in its effect that it's hard to imagine it as the work of multiple parties, let alone two individuals at such a distance. The opening track plays out in a relatively straightforward fashion, offering up a massive bleak drone that belies what follows, although it sets the tone perfectly. "Blood Grass Sojourn" is where things really come into focus, with clear, evocative field recordings taking the forefront and giving way to hallucinatory ambient soundscapes that stretch on like endless grey skies. The work captures all the emptiness of rural industrial regions, stark in their balance of horror and beauty. There is a sense of peace at the center of the otherwise harrowing sound, especially during the cleansing rush of "Boreal Distillate" as it bleeds into "Final Refugium," but it never fully leaves behind the lingering darkness.

Despite the common, false notion that drone is fixed or unchanging, the movement of these songs shows just how much tension and force can be carried in such direct forms. From slow shifts to sudden turns driven by the accompanying field recordings, there is so much at play in any given moment. This is truly the definition of ambient music as sought by its originators: it can be left to the background if need be, but it will also reward full focus listening. Get lost in your head and in the hills and the haze.

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