Struggling to Get Off the Ground
Atmosphere is a great thing, provided it isn’t played out. Too long have listeners suffered the over-inflated drone records of years past, those that linger into the second hour and rarely, if ever, change pace or structure. On their latest record, EP #260, SQÜRL (the side project of actor/director Jim Jarmusch) attempt to alleviate this issue by creating a reasonable three-song EP with two featured remixes. However, in their attempt to enhance the brevity of the genre, they overcorrect, creating a disjointed, if well-intentioned mess.
The first track, “Solstice,” opens with the promise of a detailed and harrowing atmosphere. Strings squeal beneath bows in strange patterns that immediately leave the listener unsettled, waiting for the song to come crashing down with the force of a nuclear bomb; but that release never comes. The song drones into deeper bass notes, which are either computer distorted or masterfully played in an exceedingly strange frequency. At this point, the track follows the same mantra of most drone music and continues to exist in this sonic limbo for the remaining duration, before an electric guitar springs to life in the final seconds, leading into the next track. “The Dark Rift” is an interesting mix between southern rock and noise. The opening measures contain fairly standard guitar notes played over a consistent but fairly uninteresting drum beat. There is some interesting dissonance taking place through the more erratic sections of the track that could bring to mind an imitator of Shellac or Big Black, but the most damning element of this piece is that it completely interrupts the flow that “Solstice” had begun, thrusting the listener into a now totally disjointed record.
The final track, “Equinox,” attempts to reconcile these sonic differences by incorporating more long feedback notes, but the attempt ultimately falls flat on its face, as the two aesthetics are blended in a clumsy, unsubtle manner that tips the listener off to its hastiness almost immediately. There is a shift around the two-minute mark where the drums kick in, but even this comes off as a negative, as the track devolves into some standard-level rock music — a far cry from the promise that “Solstice” once set up.
There is nothing wrong with drone, atmosphere or attempting to make these items more palatable for the listener. There is, however, a problem with bastardizing the elements to cause some sort of strange imitation that merely echoes the sentiments of these ethereal genres. EP #260 is the distillation of the issues. It is a term paper completed in the wee hours of the morning; while all the information is technically there, it is assembled in a haphazard, shoddy manner, one that is only worsened by the shoehorned remixes and nods to source materials. This is a fine first draft, but as a final presentation, it could use more than a little work.