I really enjoy ambient music, especially long-form drone, but what really makes me take notice is when that music is atmospheric/cinematic. This has it in spades. If you were watching someone conduct this it would be a very dramatic performance, not through the vigour of the conductor, but through the atmosphere that is generated.
Ghost Geometry by Dirty Knobs comprises 4 hours of atmospheric drone. The album is rich and vibrant : imagine walking into a cathedral on another plane of existence while the musicians are checking out the acoustics. Imagine long, sustained notes building up, layered on top of each other, flowing across the floor, slowly lapping up against the walls and flowing back straight at you. Imagine this blocking out everything, deadening all other sounds until you can hear nothing but Ghost Geometry. If you could see sound this would be like watching a viscous liquid slowly filling a space as the sound increased and changed.
As with most long form drone, changes are subtle and slow to occur. I think one of the reasons I enjoy listening to this so much is because Ghost Geometry is a single long form piece of music that has been ‘divided’ into 7 chapters. Listening to it without reference, one is unable to tell where the majority of the tracks begin and end because the change between them is subtle and unhurried. Nevertheless, each track has its own unique quality.
I know I use this expression a lot, but this is ‘journey music’. It fills the imagination – not with specific imagery but with a sense of place, a sense of environment. As you listen to it you gradually become aware that although the start of the album is filled with rich, deep resonating sounds, the mood gradually lightens as the album progresses. Near the end of the piece you experience ethereal spaces filled with liquid light that contrast with the darker, almost orchestral heavy areas near the start where behemoths lurk and prowl.
Overall, layers of sound gradually build up, raising the intensity of the album. The music takes on an inexorable quality. Parts of it seem to rush at you, building up the pressure, then receding, then rushing at you again, tides of sound enveloping you, picking you up and depositing you on strange shores.
So, who is Dirty Knobs? This is the music of Zac Bentz, an accomplished musician and a man of many talents. Zac was kind enough to answer a few questions about Ghost Geometry. Ghost Geometry follows on Field Recordings From The Edge Of Hell, an 8hr epic that uses the same method of transforming electronic sounds, stretching them to produce long form drone. I used the term orchestral above because when I listen to this, it certainly has that feeling, and I thought perhaps an organ had been used after the ‘stretching’ transformation. I asked Zac if this was the case and he said the sound you hear is entirely the result of the stretching effect.
“I think that’s largely a result of the process. I use many different layers of sound throughout each song, then work on stretching them out to see what happens to them. Certain qualities of sound work better than others, so it’s a bit of trial and error to get something that sounds right (for lack of a better word). The feeling that it often sounds like an organ might come from those long, sustained notes and the sort of slow modulation that occurs. But in fact the original sounds are totally electronic and rather unlike organs.”
I think that’s amazing. So, is this process an easy thing to accomplish? Apparently not. From previous interviews it is obvious that there is quite a bit of trial and error involved at the start of the creation of the album, and that the process gradually becomes honed, producing this excellently atmospheric work.
When I litened to Ghost Geometry, I had not heard Field Recordings From The Edge Of Hell. I had to get it, and after listening to it, it is quite apparent that although both albums are similar, they are in fact also quite unique. The biggest difference is that FRFTEOH contains separate, distinguishable tracks. Also, and this was quite interesting, Zac said that the naming of the tracks on Ghost Geometry was designed to be deliberately vague – meaning that the names are sufficiently surreal that the listener can create their own world and populate it as they wish. This is the main difference between the two albums. When you listen to FRFTEOH, it is easy to see why the tracks are named as they are. The Locust Eaters contains a continual metallic rushing as of millions of tiny wings, The Minotaur’s Breath contains exhalations that are strange enough that it is easy to imagine a minotaur at rest. When you listen to Ghost Geometry, the imagination is not constrained by recognisable labels, but can roam free, counjuring anything it fancies to fit the music – the track names help promote this freedom of the imagination. Zac said:
“After Field Recordings from the Edge of Hell, I wanted to simplify things a bit, make something that was more like one whole piece rather than separate scenes. I also wanted it to be a bit more vague and imposing, so the song titles are rather arbitrary, though I did put some thought into them. To me, these songs evoke images of huge shapes rolling through an ethereal space, so the idea that they were some sort of otherworldly architecture evolved from that. It’s more like feeling the geometry rather than seeing it, if that makes any sense…”
From the release page:
Ghost Geometry is four unbroken hours of sub-harmonic oppression and walls of melodic haze. Using techniques both new and old, Ghost Geometry is a cloud of expansive architecture exploding into our physical world.
If you really wanted to go for it, listen to FRFTEOH followed by Ghost Geometry – 12hrs of amazing music – they fit together rather well.
Field Recordings From The Edge Of Hell