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Guitar Drones with Fear Falls Burning

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Fear Falls Burning used to be vidnaObmana. After decades of pioneering ambient soundscapes, now he’s exploring a darker sonic palate with treated guitars.

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FEAR FALLS BURNING: Frenzy of the Absolute (CD on Conspiracy Records)

This CD from 2008 features 54 minutes of abrasive ambience.

Joining Fear Falls Burning on this release are: Tim Bertilsson (from Switchblade) on drums on the title track, Dave Vanderplas on bowed cymbals and percussion on the second track, and Magnus Lindberg (from Cult of Luna) on drums on the third track, and Johannes Persson (also from Cult of Luna) on looped electric guitar on the third track.

With this release, percussion is added as a major contributor to Fear Falls Burning’s guitar drone compositions. In order to mesh with the drums, the drones have adopted a more abrasive timbre.

The instrument of choice here is guitar, but the sounds produced are so drastically processed and warped that they no longer resemble the noises one expects from a stringed instrument.

For the title track, sustained growls form harsh drones that billow like blindingly dense dust storms across a wasteland. The drones pulsate and throb with monstrous power. Peripheral embellishment in the form of additional dark tonalities generate complimentary harmonics that seethe with a diabolical authority. The interplay of these toothy textures can be quite exhausting to experience. The percussion is strident and crashing, but the epic beats are isolated into snippets of impacts that do not form locomotive rhythms, resounding instead as puissant abstract punctuations.

During the second of the three tracks on this CD, the guitar becomes more recognizable in its guttural rumbling. Waves of ominous chords collide with squealing pitches, concocting a dire epiphany that offers no escape. Scraped cymbals lend a manic metallic flair to the roiling sound.

With the last track, pulsating guitar sustains blend with shuddering chords to establish a fearsome environment of sonic intensity. A mournful curtain of acrimonious wailing that serves as a backdrop for grating reverberations designed to peel sinew from bone. For the finale, drums enter the fierce tableau, forcing a funereal flair on the teeth-rattling tune.

These compositions differ greatly from the prior releases of Fear Falls Burning, not just in the use of strong percussives, but in the escalation of the overall brusque presence necessary for the guitar drones to compete and be heard over the crashing beats. Even when the rhythms are muted, the drones reign with an aggressive bearing.

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FEAR FALLS BURNING: First by a Whisper, Then by a Storm (limited edition vinyl album on Tonefloat/Ikon)

This release from 2007 offers 40 minutes of experimental ambience.

In the first long track, shimmering tonalities establish an environment of slightly edgy drones. Swaying in minuscule oscillation, these tones are gentle and almost soothing; “almost” because they exhibit a subtle hint of eeriness that could be perceived as an uneasy resonance. An air of thin atmospherics provides a diaphanous foundation for those primary drones.

The second track (this one being rather short) features more conventional guitar sounds, albeit progressively less traditional as the treatments bend the notes and elongate them to overlap with each other. The result displays a sense of relaxed anticipation.

Flipping the album over, the third track is another short one, in which the drones adopt a harsher demeanor. Growling resonance becomes stretched out, then punctuated by more shrill tones that embody endearingly forceful sustains. These elements steadily converge to achieve a piercing definition. Hints of distress can almost be heard in the far distance during the piece’s pensive culmination.

The final track (another extended one) offers a more tenor level of drones that almost exhibit a cheerier outlook. The tonalities waft with an ascendant quality, straining for altitude (not to be confused with volume) and achieving a standing wave of pleasant agitation (an oxymoron that can only be understood by experiencing this tantalizing composition). Auxiliary tones enter the mix, first softly and gradually swelling to rival the dominant harmonic flow. Their union generates a thought-provoking clarity that lingers long after the track has concluded.

These compositions are keenly harmonic and sparse, evoking foggy vistas of emptiness. They are basically designed to attenuate the listener to introversion, leaving the real world behind and immersing in a psychic realm. There, introspection or meditation can result. For those not interested in such spirituality, this music provides an excellent background soundtrack of minimal definition that is unintrusive but still substantial enough to float at the edge of perception.

A full edition of this release includes a CD that documents the first recordings made by vidnaObmana as he made the transition from that identity to the guitar drones of Fear Falls Burning. The 12-inch album features exclusive tracks not found on that CD.

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FEAR FALLS BURNING: When Mystery Prevades the Well, the Promise Sets Fire (vinyl album on Tonefloat)

This release from 2007 features 35 minutes of eerie ambience.

Joining Fear Falls Burning on this recording is Dave Vanderplas on cymbal and percussion.

Haunting tonalities drift in a cloud of fainter tones, all of which are initially generated on guitar, then processed until they no longer bear much semblance to any sound created by a stringed instrument. Auxiliary pulsations slide in and out of the mix, enhancing the overall eerie context and creating additional harmonic threads that gradually interweave to achieve an engaging cohesion.

Swimming in this mysterious textural pool are hints of guitar notes, soft and briefly twinkling like raindrops falling on calcified cement. Some of these notes resonate in the bass range, providing a guttural punctuation for the drone structure.

While following this tenuous structure, the second piece tends to hold more discernible guitar hints, as chords surface and sink on a steady oscillation. Incidental percussives pepper the song in a nonrhythnic manner, providing single beats here and there, as if something were groping about in a murky milieu.

As the pieces progress, they gather more density until reaching a state of languid euphoria.

As compositions go, these are mainly harmonic structures pursuing an ambient disposition laced with spooky undertones. If one casts aside any “paranormal” codification, this music serves as a dreamy panorama that could well be used as a portal for the listener to access their subconscious, at the least to segregate them from reality.

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