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Slow Dream by Loren Nerell
& Dirk Serries: Low Volume Music
The Heart of the Soul
"A glowing, amorphous cloud of spine-tingling sound. Two musicians come to mind when listening: Jon Hassell, who popularized Fourth World music, and Brian Eno, the father of Ambient music. While sounding nothing like the work of either artist, Loren Nerell's music takes inspiration from both of them. His music is evocative of mist-covered mountains and slow-motion waterfalls, so it owes something to Hassell. But it also pays tribute to the patient genius of Eno, with its endlessly evolving atmosphere, in which there is no beginning or end, only the present. Djam Karet founder Chuck Oken, Jr. describes Nerell's music as a 'sound pool' that the listener is immersed in. His words couldn't be more accurate. To describe ambient or atmospheric music as 'a soundtrack' is clichéd, but it's really the best way to talk about Nerell's work." - FORCED EXPOSURE
Along with his ongoing solo releases, Nerell has 30+ years of ethno music studies and performing and recording with Gamelan Ensembles. Nerell has collaborated with pioneers in the electronic, ambient and new music fields including Steve Roach, A Produce, Kronos Quartet and Paul Haslinger. He continues to compose and record in Los Angeles, California. His 2006 Terraform collaboration with Steve Roach is available on Projekt (PRO233). Loren writes: The field recordings on Slow Dream are from Bali and Java and have been mutated using various audio software plug-ins. I processed the sounds by slowing them down, turning them around, filtering them, and other various techniques beyond the point of recognition. The opening track is taken mostly from a 2003 field recording of a rare gamelan performing at a festival in a small village in Bali. This 20-minute recording was manipulated and then stretched out to around 6 hours in length. I then took the most interesting parts and layered them at various speeds to create the higher-pitched parts of the track. The rest of the sounds are from other mutated field recordings or sounds generated from my modular synth. Most of the material I use to process are from gamelan performances, but anything is fair game: insects, sounds of temple ceremonies, voices, and other instruments in my process. I started using some of these methods on The Venerable Dark Cloud but began to use them extensively on Taksu and also on Terraform. My intention was to make sounds that were from a gong's perspective (in Indonesia, a gong in a gamelan is thought to have its own spirit.) My thinking was if a gong is a thinking spirit, it wouldn't think in terms of a human. Instead, the gong would think in terms of gamelan sounds. So I took field recordings I had made of various gamelans and started processing them in an attempt to create something like what I imagined a gong would think. This technique has become part of my process to create new sounds.
OndaRock recently conducted an interview with Loren Nerell about Slow Dream.
More than once I’ve had this playing while laying in darkness, headphones on, and I have to say, I’ve gone places. This disc will open up some interesting vistas in your mind in such a setting. With the seamless flow and the unbroken ribbon of dark impressions that run through it, Slow Dream offers a different kind of meditative experience. In leaving the more recognizable tones of his beloved gamelan mostly behind in favor of their mutated, time-stretched and reconsidered descendants, Nerell allows himself to work with a deeper sense of mystery, of guided displacement, and of fearless sonic exploration. Let this one run on repeat for hours.
Nerell is well studied in the art of sound manipulation, and experienced in the recording of several albums of ambient sounds, especially in the art of Gamelan music, a style of Bali sound. On his seventh solo release, Slow Dream, Loren Nerell steps into the nether regions of the mind to soundtrack the unknown worlds of dreams. Slow Dream contains four compositions that are each unique, and uniquely eerie in their expressive attempt to softly provide, not a story, but a tone that replicates the misty, intangible dream worlds that we occupy.
“Mentalon”, the first of the four, is a nearly half-hour ‘lost path’ trek through uncertain curtains, behind which we know nothing that exist. The droning tones are soft, and increasingly familiar but never let up nor venture too far from the close walled corridors that it implies you are walking through. It’s followed by the 10-minute “Slow Dream”, a foreboding piece that is reminescent of Tangerine Dream works, yet retains Nerell originality. It fills the dream world with billowing dark clouds, cool to the face, devoid of life, as you walk through them.
This effective album is completed with “A Sense of Presence” (19:28), and a beautiful but short “Persistence of Dream Imagery”. It is recommended that you can listen to this drifting off to sleep, or at low volumes throughout the day for a calming effect. I would suggest a complete ‘closed-eyes’ session with this album, preferably before heading off to bed. Regardless of your listening methods, the experience is mesmerizing, more so the deeper attention you pay to the composed sounds.
In Nerell’s dreamscapes, you are truly alone. Sometimes, that’s a place we need to be. -Matt Rowe
This is seventh solo album from Nerell, and the four tracks here are built around a mixture of manipulated field recordings & subtle electronic drone textures. The field recordings are taken from Nerell’s many visits to Bali and Java, and they take in mainly recordings from native gamelan performance; but also he utilizes insect recordings, sounds of temple ceremonies, native voices. These elements he skilfully slows, blurs & blends into rich, meditative & entrancing sonic trips.
The album's four tracks last between just over the eight & half minute mark, to just shy of the twenty nine minute mark. Up first we have “Mentahon”, and this is the longest of the four tracks here. The track is a built around a slow chiming harmonic tone-this sounds like a slowed & stretched single gamelan tone, & this element slowly circles its way into first one stereo channel then the next. Behind this main tone are a selection of tighter/ denser sounding gong like tones which are warmed & ebbed by bright electronic textures. The track feels like a slow circular yet floating & warming Journey over an enchanting yet strange land scape, and you really do find your self drifting deeper & deeper into the track soothing harmonic folds.
Track two is the title track, and this feels a lot more brooding & subterranean. It’s built around a mixture of rumbling & almost aquatic slow bubbling tones-these are tipped with more clear tolling gong like textures from to time to time. The track's first half gives one the feeling of slowly drifting down a vast underground alien tunnel, which is slowly throbbing & darting with strange aquatic & weaving life forms. Around the six minute mark the track's tolling bell/gong elements become more persistent, & also a more warming & harmonic gong tone also appears. And now the track gives one the feeling of drifting on some ghostly yet soothing vast sea scape.
Track three is entitled “A Sense of Presence”, and this seems to pull you even deeper into vague yet intriguing sonic landscape. The tracks made up of a dense mass of: slowly drifting clouds of stretched ‘n’ hazy gong textures, massive & slowly expanding subterranean drone textures, and blurred ‘n’ heavy vibe shimmers. As the track goes on from time to time you can make out shifts & slow darts of more defined sound, like clunking electro footsteps, distant alien child like chatter, slowed tribal tipped synth snakes & spacey darts, and textural like billows & shifts. And in the track's last few moments sudden stabs of deep rhythmic electronics-but these never stay for long or form into any set rhythmic back bone, and the vague yet slightly intensifying atmosphere is held.
Lastly we have “Persistence of Dream Imagery”, and this is the shortest track at the 8.31 mark. This track feels like a slow yet hazy return to physically world as more defined circular gong textures are revolved around you in a golden rotation. From time to time a chimed tone appears from the glinting swells of gong drone, and this gives one the feeling of slowly drifting back to calm & peaceful wakefulness after your dreamy sonic trip.
Slow Dream is a skilfully weaved slice of dreamy & entrancing deep ambience, and it really does pull one off to mysterious/haunting sonic shores & gilded yet hazed audio landscapes. Rating: 4/5 -Roger Batty
“L'ispirazione di questo disco la devo in gran parte a Steve Roach” (con cui pubblicò, ormai sei anni fa, lo splendido “Terraform”) - spiega Nerell - “è un album che nasce con la volontà di musicare alcune illusioni ipnagogiche, tema del quale discutevo spesso con lui”.
L'intento pare centrato alla perfezione nella mezz'ora sussurrata di “Mentation”: i riferimenti sono ai fasti più dronici del californiano e l'asettica rarefazione dei precedenti lavori è avvolta da un flusso sonoro gelido e disturbato, con un'inedita centralità della matrice elettronica. Ma questo è solo un lato di Slow Dream, che rivela una sfumatura diversa a ogni brano: la title track riprende i contatti con le profondità della tradizione orientale mediante sample e strumentazione acustica, lasciando da parte le escursioni nella Via Lattea; un misticismo oscuro e quasi industriale ricopre invece “A Sense Of Presence”, in cui appare per la prima volta il gamelan, reso però irriconoscibile dal frastornante fruscio del rumore bianco. La conclusiva “Persistence Of Dream Imagery” si rifà di nuovo a Roach - stavolta quello obliquo e ovattato di Structures From Silence - congedando dall'ascolto all'insegna di un vuoto caustico, di una quiete per assenza di elementi.
In Slow Dream, Loren Nerell abbandona il ruolo di archeologo alla ricerca di reperti sonori, trasmutandosi in antropologo intento ad analizzare nel suo studio quanto raccolto in ventisei anni di carriera sul campo. Questa nuova pelle permette alla sua musica di fuoriuscire finalmente dalle arcigne e spigolose fossilizzazioni in cui era rimasta avvolta per tanto tempo, nonché di esprimersi nella purezza della sua natura in un prodotto di caratura sopraffina, che raccoglie in maniera superba quanto seminato in quasi trent'anni di incessante ricerca. Rating: 7.5 (very good) -Matteo Meda
Percussionist in love with Bali, in the past Nerell transferred his neural experiences in music, living in that place. He built some long "concrete" suites based on the sound of those typical oriental instruments and he brought out a dark part of the soundscape of Bali staying on street corners: the Gamelan married with Java's ceremonial obtained from the fields recordings. In addition to being an ethno-musicologist Loren is also a scientific anthropologist specializing in music; his first album for the Projekt R. belongs to this culture: the official recordings of "ambient" music of Nerell were restricted (in a discography really undersized) to his Lilin Dewa of '96 and collaborations with Barry Craig (the soundtrack "Intangible" of A Produce) and Steve Roach's Terraform, while the rest of his records was devoted to the techniques of field recordings. So Slow Dream can be considered as a kind of great divide where the intention is to experience a prolonged hypnagogic state, and if the feeling in these works take us away from listening to "normal" music, (they are more appropriate for a visit to the therapist), from the artistic point of view we appreciate the paradoxical elements determined by listening to an hour of this music that lives in the dark "suspension" throughout its length. The difficult of the task is find the subtle and implicit changes resulting from evanescent drones sound. The real problem for the music critic is to discover the emotional value to be assigned to these sounds, the evaluation process that leads us in attributing a meaning to this music; and if these long tracks distort reality (because you enter the world of meditation and then in the conscious), the only process that can be defined in these circumstances is the search of the value for technical solutions used in the realization of the tracks. I think that the experiments of "A sense of presence", written for installation in Los Angeles in 2009, have a better chance of finding an aesthetic foothold, where the underlying effects of manipulated electronic (dronic suspension, cosmic winds, undefined metal sounds) try to reach the expected result, ie to accompany adequately our semisleep. -Ettore Garzia
For fans of deep space music, Nerell’s music has it all: the rich drones, ethereal soundscapes and layers of electronic atmospheres. The four lengthy tracks (the first cut clocks 28:40) are based on extremely processed location recordings made during Nerell’s trips to mythical Bali.
Loren Nerell is a composer on Balinese gamelan and ambient electronic music. He has six albums prior to Slow Dream: Point Of Arrival (LAN, 1986), Lilin Dewa (Side Effects, 1996), Indonesian Soundscapes (Soleilmoon Recordings, 1999), Taksu (Soleilmoon Recordings, 2003), Terraform, with Steve Roach (Soleilmoon Recordings, 2006), Intangible, with A Produce (Hypnos, 2011).
In addition to his solo releases, Nerell has over 30 years of ethno music studies and performing and recording with gamelan ensembles. Nerell has collaborated with pioneers in the electronic, ambient and new music fields including Steve Roach, A Produce, Kronos Quartet and Paul Haslinger. He has also written music for film, theater, dance, and interactive multi-media.
Slow Dream is a beautiful and mesmerizing album of deep ambient electronic music. -Angel Romero
Opening long-form "Mentation" clocks to nearly 29 minutes with serene, slow-motion endlessly drifting and soothingly circling resonant cloudscapes. It creates strongly meditative states that graciously float between the waking and sleep, between the sound and silence. The title track, 10 and half minute long composition "Slow Dream" dives straight into chasmal mammoth drone realms strenghtened by various subterranean rumblings and otherworldly tinkles and outbursts. Gentle and remote tribal beats blanketed by fog join the stage too and invite the listener on a deeply sonorous and immersing journey. "A Sense Of Presence", another longer composition, remains in shadowy, rather dissonant and nearly transcendental domains with gradually expanding heavy drone zones and assorted background unsettling sonic tremors. All subterranean ghosts are awakened by this deeply cavernous adventure. "Persistence Of Dream Imagery", as indicated by its title, is tranquilly sculpted dronespace with few occasional industrial noises thrown in and highly mesmerizing meditative piece that brings Slow Dream into the conclusion.
Slow Dream is a skillfully crafted recording of immensely subterranean atmospheres originated of various gamelans, powerfully evocative and magically transporting! A must-have for all explorers of mysteriously alluring sonic escapades!!! 4-panel ecowallet with cover images by Thierry Moreau and graphic design by Sam Rosenthal precisely interplay with the sonic content. -Richard Gürtler
"Mentation" plunges us into the fascinating musical universe of Gamelan with its long cyclic adventure carried away by the intonations of the gongs and metallophones which quietly forge an enchanting spiritual approach, like some oniric songs caressing the grooves of our ears. This longitudinal title which clocks the 30 minutes length begins with breaths of life which espouse the reverberations of the gongs of which the ringing are singing of their silvered reflections an ode to peace of mind. I have already heard this contemplative approach on The Sky of Mind from Ray Lynch which is however more melodious than "Slow Dream". Here, no rhythms or melodies. Everything is centered on relaxation and mental appeasement which evolve among fine and subtle variations brought by a synth to breezes of mist. Breezes which subdivide their breaths, bringing a delicate poetic contrast on the metallic stanzas of the gongs which are hiding between sound and silence of souls.
The title-track encroaches on the lugubrious finale of "Mentation", pursuing this long atonal odyssey among the somber breaths of an absent synth which float as black angels on an earth of perdition. Less Gamelan and closer to the electronic spheres of a dark ambient musical universe, "Slow Dream" widens its veil of mysticism through its delicate drones which crisscross a subterranean world to the thousand rustles of a strange immersive paranoia. By moments, one would believe to relive the wonderful and quiet world of Steve Roach's Immersion series with this heavy meditative approach which puts to sleep "Slow Dream", as well as on "A Sense of Presence" from which the hollow breezes shake the curves of opposition to progress and awake a strange fauna of a hybrid world.
The more we move forward and the more the breaths of synths implode into somber cataclysmic tumults, awakening a universe stuffed with avenging spectres which blow their disagreements among intense drones with incantations as much mephistophelic than celestial. "Persistence of Dream Imagery" ends Slow Dream with the same Balinese approach of "Mentation", except that this time Loren Nerell adds some vestiges of a western universe with metallic noises which roam here and there, lost between silence and noise, between day and night. Like a reflection of an industrialized universe mislaid in the immersive universe of the meditative contemplations on Balinese Gamelan music.
I always said it; there is only Steve Roach to draw curves on lines and it’s the enchantment behind Slow Dream. Profoundly ambient and wrapping, this last opus of Loren Nerell is a beautiful balance between mysticism and musical poetry. It’s as darker as it can be beautiful and, especially, it’s as well charming than it’s quiet. For fan of dark ambient with a beautiful exploratory touch. Rating: 3.5/5 -Sylvain Lupari