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- Fixtures by Damian Valles
9/10 Mike Staff review, 30 June 2011
Damian Valles is one of the more interesting names on the ambient scene right now, and this new tape serves to reinforce that, opening with the dark, extended, industrial-sounding drone of 'Black Locust' with hushed, sparing vocals at one point (if my ears don't deceive me) before dropping into the glacial east-meets-west repetitive meditation on piano and guitar that is 'Winter Clusters', beating out a musty, primitive groove. The piano line is slightly discordant and swamped with sustain so it seems to build in volume and decrease in form as the piece goes on, until the guitar drops out and it drops down to a hushed and once again melodic piano outro. The next track, 'Adzes', begins in near silence, with a glassy, quavering note that sounds like a manipulated xylophone (but is probably a synth) repeated over gentle squeaks and peeps before being joined by a throbbing bass guitar on the same note two octaves below, which is then joined by a slow and sombre piano melody in between the high and low pitches, before we slip back into more industrial-sounding drone in the side's closer, Terra Incognita, which is constructed out of lots of bassy piano being processed and sustained into waves of sinister drone, which eventually flatten out into something rather soothing and drawn out. The second side opens with a simple, unsettling piano melody and waves of grinding white noise over which there's a fluttering sound like a crackly run-out groove of a record. It's got a bit of a Deathprod feel about it, but a bit busier. Maybe like a Deathprod 33 being played at 45? That's followed by another relaxing and flat-ish drone before the gorgeous shifting, pulsing, and once again Deathprod-esque Ice and Water. 'Mares' returns Valles to his guitar, where he once again picks out a sinister east-meets-west piece with a couple of totally mouthwatering chord changes, while there's some high pitched metallic scrapes and whistles which neatly place it in a more oppressive, claustrophobic context. Then the whole thing closes off with an extended drone with sporadic piano notes entitled 'Brood Frame'. As far as ambient music goes this is really exceptional stuff, and it's a shame there's only 50 of these because I think it'd be appreciated by a wider audience than that. Hopefully it'll get a vinyl pressing or at least a CD release at some point. A consistently impressive and varied exploration of darkness and depth and texture. Nice screenprinted slipcases, too.
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