Digital, Force of Nature, 2011
(Note: according to the FoN page this album comprises five tracks. What I was given to review was a single, 28-minute-long track. I’m not sure if that is the intended format, but my analysis will reflect this.)
The press release describes “The Waiting Room” as “the music of Los Angeles while sleeping”, as well as a combination of drones and urban atmospheres. I would say that this description is not terribly far off, given that you take it in a literal sense rather than an artistic one. “The Waiting Room” does indeed capture the sound of a dead city, as long as you take that concept at face value. Imagine you are standing alone, enclosed by towering, crumbling edifices; the last person in the entire city. From all directions you hear nothing, save for the faint sound of wind sweeping through the roads, blowing old newspapers and trash, and the dull, wearisome, droning of street lamps. Sometimes you hear the sound of your feet clapping against a grate or manhole. You choose to go below street level, descending into a dank, blackened abyss. There you are surrounded by the unchanging din of the massive, darkened subway tunnels. And there you have this album: long, monotonous drones which slowly rise and fall, and deep within them some distant clanking that can barely be discerned. There are long pauses where the volume will drop to near zero and hover there for no apparent reason, I suppose as a way to differentiate the tracks.
The tracks are all highly similar but not exact replicas of each other. There is little diversity here, but I guess that is par for the course when it comes to drone music. Overall the album has a creepy, almost soundtrack-esque tone, and it accurately captures the sound of desolation and abandonment, but at the same time it doesn’t exactly make for engaging music. If you were watching a movie such as “I Am Legend”, this is the music that would be playing while the protagonist wanders around alone at night and nothing happens. There is no conflict, no climax, just droning sameness.
I tend to enjoy seemingly boring, droning ambient, but this is pushing it. When it comes to albums like this, that attempt to accurately sound like nighttime in a city or an abandoned place, I always wonder what the point is – you could simply walk outside your residence and hear the exact same thing in full, lossless surround sound. I don’t hate this album, but it definitely felt like it could have been so much more than sitting in an abandoned subway tunnel for 28 minutes.
— Dan Barrett