Info Twenty Hertz profiled: Romancing the Drone 
"Twenty Hertz profiled"
by various
Twenty Hertz ()
"Paul Bradley - Sophia drifts (edit) [Sophia Drifts]"
"Paul Bradley - Horizon (edit) [Sirens]"
"Paul Bradley - Cede (edit) [Sirens]"
"Monos - Promotion (edit) [Promotion]"
"Ubeboet - Premia Lucis [Spectra]"
"Ubeboet - Vuelo, Son, Mar, Canto interno [Spectra]"
"Rameses iii - Basilica (remix by Keith Berry) [Basilica]"
"Keith Berry - A Strange Feather (edit) [A Strange Feather]"
"Paul Bradley - Overcome (edit) [Twenty Hertz]"

Paul Bradley website
Monos website
Darren Tate website
Colin Potter website
Andrew Chalk website
Twenty Hertz website
ICR website
Ubeboet website
Keith Berry website
Iain Stewart website


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

The Twenty Hertz label is a platform for Paul Bradley and associates - kindred spirits including
Monos (Darren Tate and Colin Potter), Keith Berry and Ubeboet. Since eponymous debut in
2003, on sometime collaborator Colin Potter’s ICR label, Bradley has released a stream of textural
works exploring The Drone's various articulations. Sounds drawn from natural environments are
combined with instruments, chiefly guitar, and digitally shapeshifted
into rich driftzones. They emerge as tweeter-twirling woofer-rumbling
sonorities that thread digital with analogue, mixing phonographic and
instrumental strategies. At the interstices of post-industrial, ambient
and microsound traditions, these elemental soundscapes slowly outfold
into immersive texture maps. The drones Bradley and Dronemeister
brethren peddle span a spectrum with those of a celestial open higher
register orientation at one end and those inclined toward a deep dark
lowflow at the other. While Bradley's earlier outings tended to mine the
post-industrial chthonics of the latter, he moved into more
ambivalent terrain in mid-period works such as Sophia Drifts,
originally a ltd release on Mystery Sea, recently re-presented through
Twenty Hertz Digital. Lately his goal has been if not beyond, then
certainly delighting in departing the earth(l)y of his early period. This is
apparent on Sirens, an assemblage of previously singular
short-format releases from '07-'08. It evidences his recent turn toward
more open expanses - a wider shade of drone, abandoning former
isolationist tanks. Here, Bradley seems closer to kindred spirit in
guitar alchemy, Andrew Chalk, whose manipulated guitar tableaux
appear to have influenced Bradley's development. “Searching for the
way” hosts fibrillating strata shifting across the soundfield suspended
between wistful and blissful. “Horizon” takes off from where last
year’s radiant Chroma left off, diaphanous guitar tones slowly swarming to as near swooning
climax as ambient gets. "Cede" is more withdrawn minor-resolved meditation that seeks to extract
something more directly emotional, even elegiac, gently tugging steel-strung source as if wringing
heartstrings. Listened to in totality, the sound of Sirens is possessed of an incantatory allure.

Darren Tate is main man behind Monos, and a raft of drone and field recording works in the
pioneering tradition of the Ora collective, school of British Dronemeisters, in which Andrew
was his main foil. Monos signalled Tate's re-emergence from Ora's demise, later coopting
Colin Potter, long-time fellow-labourer at the coalface of UK Outsider music. Originally a limited
release in 2000, Promotion was Monos' debut, Tate then flying solo. Now reissued, it makes for
interesting listening, in stark contrast to the more developed electronic manipulations of later Monos. It's less polished material, stripped down and unadorned, apart from a few passing filter sweeps, transmitting the quotidian effluvia of an active room interior. A flurry of rustles and thuds and assorted clangour scud for 30-odd minutes across the soundfield (Try it here!). Rather than metamorphosis into dronemass familiar from later Monos (cf. Landscapes and Generators), Tate leaves largely alone, Promotion presenting more like a noisy neighbour of naturalist audio-documentary tradition exemplified by Chris Watson, albeit a wayward offshoot. One for Monos completists, and for lovers of the leftfield lurching tendency in British experimentalism.

Some way away from Promotion's somewhat unkempt fields is the
more refined preserve of Ubeboet’s Spectra. Miguel Angel Tolosa,
Ubeboet man, is a Madrid-based artist hitherto more absorbed in
lowercase concerns. Spectra, however, finds the trajectories of
musique concrète, drone, phonography and minimalism converging
beauteously. A cathedral-esque space hosts a glass-sculpted entwining
of tones, opening pieces, like "Premia Lucis", seeming to allude to
medieval Christian liturgy. Soft tintinnabulations swim through light
drone and flutter across the sonic spectrum. What initially strikes as a
transparent work of digital drone with a few ambient flourishes,
however, becomes increasingly episodic and opaque. Apparently
realised using “field recordings, fm radio, tape recorder, lap steel guitar” added to the ubiquitous
“laptop”, the rougher edge these infusions impart to base tone-motions make new disclosures, as
Tolosa's lowercase breeding starts to show. A piece like "Vuelo, Son, Mar, Canto interno"
displays his sound design prowess in endowing these vignettes with pockets and folds into which
detail is tucked for questing listeners to probe. The further the album progresses, the more
celestial sites are abandoned for more ambiguously shaded chambers. Spectra, overall, expertly
offsets the compositional austerity of minimalism with a certain sensory indulgence of timbre, subtly blending numinous and luminous.

With a few releases on Trente Oiseaux and Crouton, Keith Berry may already be familiar to Drone adepts. His A Strange Feather is an evanescent piece of eerie beauty, of cryptic vanishings and re-emergences. Berry’s propensity for the quiet, though by no means serene, may align him with the Trente Oiseaux ethos, but the core aesthetic of contemplative unfolding ambience tags him as a Twenty Hertz man at heart. The characteristics of his music – its slow changes and recursivity – recall the asceticism of Morton Feldman-style minimalism or the lowercase absorptions of Steve Roden. But Berry’s inquiry is maximal, with its engulfing heft of extended electronic swathes of rich timbral variegation. While flecked with soft digital cracklings, odd environmental infusions, and delicate interludes, the emphasis is on billowing dronemass and sombre swells. Within the larger graceful gestures of glacial-warm sonorities, its granular orchestration is streaked with strange flutings and soft abrasions. Overall, his work spans the spatial driftzone from Thomas Köner to William Basinski with its tranquil brooding. Though not situated within the Twenty Hertz discography, two compelling examples of recent Berry work could well be captured for a future collection (hint, hint).
The first is a soundtrack to video artist, Iain Stewart's 58º North. This video work featured in an exhibition held in Edinburgh last year (DVD obtainable from the artist's shop; activate Quicktime clip by clicking the still frame to the left). Berry's audio-choreography strikes as both immediately sympathetic to the artist's visualisations and 'naturally' linked to this sometimes serene, sometimes perturbed, gaze on the sea's movements and the horizon's aspect. The second is a resonant remix for nouveau Ambient-Drone/Post-rock/Space-Folk stars, Rameses III's latest, Basilica. Both are sublime specimens of spatial minimalist sound-sculpting for those whose infatuation is with the Dark and Long, the Grain within the Sustain, and the finding of a feeling of something somehow transcendent in enigmatic tonalities. Out of all this emerges a kind of strange new romanticism, marrying postmodern compositional sensibilities of self-conscious forms with the deep inner content of romanticism - a keynote of those associated with the estimable Twenty Hertz enterprise.

Review by Alan Lockett


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