Forest Management: Doux
Polar Seas Recordings

There's minimal and then there's minimal: Doux, by way of illustration, is about as stripped-down as ambient gets. The fifty-three-minute set is the latest release from the prolific Chicago-based producer John Daniel, who recorded the material during November 2017 in Cleveland and Chicago. It's his first appearance on the Toronto-based Polar Seas imprint, following material he issued on Constellation Tatsu and Lillerne Tapes earlier in the year.

Released in a fifty-copy CD-R edition, Doux features four settings ranging in duration from six to twenty minutes, the longest the opening “Marview,” which, like the other three, largely hews to a single pitch. Listening interest doesn't therefore derive from anything melody-related but instead the way the sound design modulates across time. As the droning mass reverberates, it takes on the character of a constantly evolving abstract design that sees colours and patterns morphing into others, the changes so subtly effected and modest in number that even the tiniest shift in presentation registers as a dramatic gesture. Giving one's full attention to the material, the listener enters a somewhat hallucinatory state, such that one begins to wonder whether those vague rumblings or high-pitched whistling tones emerging within “Marview” are physically present or merely imagined.

The four settings are variations on a theme, yet there are differences, too. Compared to the opener, “Glimmering Screen” radiates more assertively, it seems, and fluctuations in volume are evident in the sudden surges that not so subliminally punctuate the glassy drone. In “Cold Air Contingent,” limpid pools of organ-like tones glisten, their shifts so discreetly executed their oscillations verge on imperceptible, whereas “Landing” deviates in sound design from the others in smearing its muffled exhalations in a haze of granular static and hiss. Pitched at a low volume, Doux merges indissolubly into the immediate environment; played loudly, the material exerts a considerably more powerful effect, such that, like it or not, the listener can't help but be pulled into its rather hypnotic web.

December 2017