by Darren Bergstein, Signal to Noise
Launching the steveroach.com sub-phylum of his Timeroom Editions mainstay, Mr. Roach presents a couple of promising young whippersnappers as the potential frontrunners on 2008's new ambient ticket. Roach's guiding hand and formidable presence (literally and figuratively) is not only fruitful but multiplied on the two sets under consideration here; rubberstamped and mastered for optimal frequency response, one can at the very least trust the headmaster's instincts -- it doesn't hurt that Roach's proteges possess a fair modicum of chops, either.
Brian Parnham's previously self-issued BETWEEN HERE AND THERE was a respectable amalgam of southwest terra incognita and rattlesnake shake: MANTLE instead gets down with its badass drone self, hunting for subterranean universes where light bends, ceases, and conjugates its invisible energy into something else. Tracks titles "Liquid Aggregate", "Strata Peel", and "Altar of the Underworld" find their metaphorical reflectors in the music, shifting through layers of arid, arcing tones, phased breaths, melting resonances. Parnham plays tricks on your ears, peppering his itinerant soundscapes with subtle yet dramatic effects. Far too much occurs inside the music's knotty contours for casual dipping to reveal -- repeat listening is necessary for adequate saturation.
Conversely, Asunder, newcomer Nathan Youngblood's debut, catapults headfirst into harmonics of darkness, unafraid to see what lies beneath for the taking. Menacing, minimal drones creep along buzzing fault lines, adjunct noises uncurling behind them like a great beast opening its talons. A singleminded relentlessness governs how Youngblood allows the dense surrounding air to elongate and assume perilous form. For the entirety of the first two tracks, the level of tension builds to unimaginable climax, but rather than shatter our preconceptions to the rocks, instead Youngblood tenders "Umbrasphere" with a delicate, if cautionary, finesse, driving two snapping wavelengths against a seemingly indestructible wall of electronics. Ebony meets ivory in a storm of drones -- here's to anticipating Youngblood's follow-up.