DFRNT: Patience

Issued in a digital format on his own Echodub label, Alex Cowles's latest DFRNT effort, Patience, plunges the listener immediately into an ambient-dub soundworld with its opening piece “Sunrise.” A serpentine synth melody lends the setting a rather prog-like flavour, but the ten-track, hour-long collection largely orients itself around heavily atmospheric dub-techno more than anything else—something that becomes clear when a reverberant series of dubby washes introduces the second piece, “Synasthesia.”

Its Plastikman-styled title notwithstanding, “Concept 01” is an exercise in ocean-view languor with a laid-back drum pulse the primary soothing element. Not everything is so serene, however: dark clouds sweep across “Boreal,” whose brooding chords imbue the material with an unsettling degree of drama and portent. The album's longest piece, the eleven-minute “Mountain,” suggests the successful completion of a daunting, step-by-step ascent, but Patience is at its most engrossing when it's at its rhythm-heaviest, such as during “Moon” and “Plains,” which Cowles powers with snappy dub-techno pulses that wouldn't sound out of place in the club.

The differences between the tracks aside, the one thing common to all is a multi-dimensional production design that turns each piece into an ultra-immersive listening experience. As representative examples, “Concept 01” evokes a tropical setting so convincingly, one almost starts to feel the warmth and humidity of the locale, while “Boreal” conjures the image of a setting so drenched in rain one considers seeking shelter in anticipation of the coming storm.

Created and produced with meticulous care, Patience envelops its material in thick blankets of spacious atmospherics. Synthesizer swirls, piano, ethereal vocals, and voice samples also figure into the mix to ensure the listener remains engaged. It's an album best appreciated as either a headphones listen or with your system's volume turned up so loud it floods the listening space and pulls you into it.

November 2013