New Year 5 – Kevin Drumm’s ‘Imperial Horizon’


Today I’m offering a diminutive review of Kevin Drumm’s Imperial Horizon:

‘This album, which is a 64 minute track named Just Lay Down and Forget It, could be viewed as a follow up to 2008’s excellent Imperial Distortion, or rather an elongated post script that develops ID‘s later tracks to their logical conclusion. It is not my ‘Album of the Year’, but one that I think people should take some time to get acquainted with. The single track here, along with We All Get It In The End from the aforementioned previous album, has a distinct filmic quality to it, which is obviously a challenge to sustain over such length. I was reminded of an unpicked and extended Badalamenti piece from Mulholland Drive, or perhaps the Philip Jeck track Wholesome, though this sort of simplistic comparison does a disservice to a piece of work that clearly took a long time to develop and produce. The problem with much ambient music is the attention it requires (the term suggests the opposite of what it needs); this piece needs an hour plus to morph, merge, expand, but many people I suspect will drift off, or skip ahead to hear how the track changes. I would urge listeners not to do this. It defeats the point. Put aside the time for it.

To condense the sound in to a few descriptive phrases seems somewhat redundant but nevertheless: perambulating bass sweeps, crackling synth tones, shimmering spaces, coalescing textural shifts. IH is unlike the noisier Drumm works people may be familiar with, and is an impressive display of control, tonal progression and development. It is simultaneously grounded by the lower notes, and ethereal, wandering, drifting in upper registers. This album is best experienced on good quality headphones, so as to pick up the subtle tonal shifts and warping distended oscillations of the track.

My initial listening experience was unsettling, owing to the presence of a tune I could not place, evolving slowly over the first five minutes. Oddly, I’ve identified that nagging spectre as my own ‘York Is Burning‘ composition from 2004. The similarities aren’t that massive, but it was enough to remind me. I played the two simultaneously to reinforce the differences…it’s probably best not to waste the time. Essentially I’m saying ‘give it a go’, but put some effort in to it. There are rich audio rewards to be had.

As a postscript of my own, it’s worth doing a search on the story of Christine Chubbuck, who features heavily on Imperial Distortion (both on the record and in the liner notes), and lurks beneath the surface of this release. Just don’t try and look for the video.’

Tomorrow, Broughall discusses The Death of The Album…

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