Ben Fleury-Steiner: Clearings
Rural Colours

That Ben Fleury-Steiner has issued past recordings on labels such as Infraction, Low-Point, and Hypnos says much about the kind of experimental ambient-drone music the Delaware, USA-based sound sculptor creates. And a sound sculptor he most definitely is, as shown by the three long-form pieces on Clearings, which he crafted from electronic and acoustic sources such as kalimbas, modular synthesizers, guitar drones, and effects pedals.

Deriving its title from Haruki Murakami's celebrated novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the album's opening setting “Wind-Up Bird's Lament” lays out a shimmering field of low-level noises, kalimba plucks, and processed sounds across its deep droning surface. Almost everything moves in slow-motion, the exception being the percussive rattles that repeatedly appear atop the foundation, and the sounds collectively mass into an opaque, subtly mutating whole. At seventeen minutes the CD's longest setting, “Glade” emerges out of an industrial-tinged mist before swelling into larger formations that repeatedly ebb and flow. With a tone glimmering faintly at the music's center, the image conjured is of a lighthouse and its flashing light almost completely obscured by fog and a relentless cover of rain. Fleury-Steiner gives the at-times symphonic closer “Parallax” a particularly vaporous character, filling it with gas and letting it drift across the plains in all its immense glory, and all the while speckling it with barnacles of crackling noise.

Admirers of Fleury-Steiner's previous output won't be disappointed by Clearings (available as a limited-edition CD of 150 copies), nor will devotees of immersive and meditative ambient-dronescaping in general.

March 2013