Cleared: Cleared (Immune)
This understated collaboration between Michael Vallera and percussionist Steven Hess is one of my personal favorites of the year so far. Its five tracks only last about 35 minutes, but there is something wonderful about them, on their own and especially as a whole. At the conceptual core of the project is a focus on patience, repetition and minimalism. These are hardly anything new in abstract terms, given the glut of drone-ambient releases hitting the market every other week, but there’s something truly mesmerizing about these pieces. The title track sets the tone with a cycling series of drones, combining textures and tones with fragments of manipulated guitar. It’s seven minutes of bliss, turning your ears inward toward something internal and reflective. “When The Ground Is Close” is as close to a dirge as anything on the album comes, led by a repetitive, reverberated clang, then layered with overtones and drones that slowly fade into earshot. Like some other parts of the album, it recalls the more severe ambient moments of a label like Cold Meat Industry, but it never fully crosses over into nightmare territory in the way in which CMI always actively seemed to strive for. Only on the last track, “False Morning,” do the musicians’ roots really reveal themselves, when rather abruptly a traditional drum kit is heard, along with more musical drones accompanying it. It’s a bit jarring given the sublime ambience of the rest of the release, but as a sort of decompression or rise to the surface, it somehow works. Really strong stuff from two busy artists who thankfully took the necessary time to let these ideas play themselves out in the best possible way.
Watch/listen: Staying For Winter