Abstraction by Saul Stokes GreenHouseMusic, 2001 http://www.saulstokes.com Saul Stokes usually shows up on Hypnos Records, but in this album (recorded “live”) he is a “guest artist” on GreenHouseMusic, a label known for its lavish, psychedelic electronic drone and loop sound (such as “Vir Unis’” Aeonian Glow). This guest appearance, in keeping with GreenHouse, is very much in the drone ‘n’ loop category. But Saul Stokes drones somewhat differently than GreenHouse’s ethereal “Exuviae” or “Vir Unis.” When Stokes lays down the layers, he adds in elements from industrial noise and old-fashioned garage electric guitar feedback, as well as flying-saucer style knob-twiddling oscillator sweeps. Some of these electric squeals sound like cats and kittens meowing; I detect some wry sonic humor here and there. The visual packaging is white tracery on black, with ultrafashionable all-lower-case graphics and a ghostly, almost-imperceptible black-on-black photo of Stokes himself.
He knows enough to put some consonant intervals like fifths or triads in the bass, which gives it a more pleasant mood than the usual atonal “dark drone ambient.” In fact some of his chords and textures show the influence of the “GreenHouse” sound, though without the lush reverb of GreenHouse’s other productions. But as the title aptly describes it, any “musical” elements in Stokes’ dronefest are “abstracted” out into rhythmless, humming wires of sound. A note or a texture will last for minutes, looped into mind-twirling patterns. Each piece is different, though they move from one to the next without a silent break. Most of it is rather soft, and not meant for the foreground; it is ambient atmosphere sound, though I’m not sure what environment it would enhance. I’ll say this outright: you must be a drone aficionado to enjoy this album. If you don’t appreciate the aesthetics of drone music, then this is not an album for you. Even if you are a drone fan, it is a bit of a job to listen to.
HMGS rating: 6 out of 10 Hannah M.G. Shapero, EER-MUSIC.com 8/22/01
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