CD-R, Quiet World, 2007
Active in music and sonic experimentation since the mid-1980s, British drone-artist Darren Tate (not to be confused with the DJ/producer, also British) has under his belt a virtual legacy of minimal ambient excursions, as well as collaborations with such similar artists as Andrew Chalk, Ian Holloway and Paul Bradley. He also runs the Fungal label, an established promoter of these heady sonic spaces. Tate’s latest release, “Small Worlds,” is precisely as its title implies – windows seemingly opened in the air, cutting through the very substance of atmosphere and reality to offer fathomless views into realms both mystical and (ironically) minute. His meditative treatments and judicious contemplations of sonic ephemera and cyclic phrasings make the three distinct pieces on “Small Worlds” almost tangible in their sound-as-mass aesthetic.
“Small Worlds 1” is the shortest composition of the release, and at a little over eight minutes has just enough time to introduce the percolating headspace Tate has mastered so well. Its melancholy, high-pitched tones cycle and fade in a pattern of substitution and renewal integral to minimalist technique. Here sounds are alternately rising and falling, faster and slower, lulling the conscious mind into unconscious stasis. Tense moments are enacted with a few dissonant thrusts later in the track, rupturing the lazy equilibrium and preparing the listener for the bone-shaking bass stutters that command “Small Worlds 2.” Further tensions mount in this second piece, as unexpected guitar picks surface above the endless throbbing and are manipulated with infinitesimal care. The quieter plucking toward the end of the composition then seems almost nostalgic.
“Small Worlds 3” is an epic, breathing microcosm – twenty minutes of pure machined hermeticism and astounding subtlety. A muffled pulsing rhythm, like a room-sized machine engine heard through any number of walls, forms the basis over which various modulations dance and crawl. The attentive ear will notice that this hypnotizing pulse undergoes several phases in pitch and tempo, and that a new, deeper and more densely constructed drone that enters the track at about the halfway point gradually falls in sync with the irresistible rhythmic cycling. Other elements includes faint traces of atmospheric violin, guitar sounding like a hinge in need of lubrication, hesitant string manipulations, and a resonating higher tone that hovers just out of reach of the droning roar. The organic quality of Tate’s work is undeniable, and each of the “Small Worlds” without question dwells within the miniscule fluidity of vitality itself.
— Dutton Hauhart