2. Slow Dream 10:29
3. A Sense of Presence 19:28
4. Persistence of Dream Imagery 08:30
Loren Nerell creates a masterful release of deep ambient with Slow Dream, field recordings from the world of sleep. On his seventh solo release, Nerell’s four lengthy tracks are all-encompassing sonic environments primarily forged from extremely processed location recordings made during his trips to Bali. Rich drones and shimmering highlights skirt over the organic textures, processed and layered into subtle, delicate resonant spaces. Glowing, amorphous drifts of sound create the impression of traveling along the supple contours of subterranean passageways. This slow dream takes ethereal shape as an exotic but compelling atmosphere that hovers between the waking and sleep state. When experienced at a lower volume and left to repeat play over the course of a few hours, the transportive effect of this soundscape is especially powerful and mind-altering.
“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).
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.
Reviews Editor –
Slow Dream is a quartet of long, shadowy meditations from Loren Nerell. While never delving entirely into a dark-ambient space, Nerell does infuse these deep pieces with a certain sense of being cut off by the sound, immersed in drone and unable to reach the surface. It’s superb headphone listening, never raising its voice above a slightly sinister whisper as it ushers you down into yourself and spaces beyond. Nerell’s library for this disc started with his field recordings of Indonesian and Balinese gamelan. He ran the sounds through various processing programs and other means of manipulation to create a fresh batch of tones and textures that he quietly melts together. Because the source material is acoustic, the processed output retains a resonant remnant of its organic starting point, tucked into the otherwise otherworldly flows. As the opening track “Mentation” eases through its 29 minutes, a single recognizable gamelan chime rings solemnly, the tone marking time’s passing as Nerell’s mist-at-midnight drones fill the space. This is a fantastic half-hour of ambient that works to fully submerge you in Nerell’s intentions. Once you’re here, you’re not coming up until it’s over. It’s interesting to note that Nerell’s sounds are complex but not as densely packed as “dark” ambient tends to be. There’s no crushing weight at work here. His drones feel breath-light, paper wings of sound that hush and sigh past you in small, unhurried packs. Following “Mentation,” the voyage continues through the title track, a piece that borders on feeling isolationist, a lulling drone surrounded by hissing winds and cavernous echo. “A Sense of Presence,” the second-longest track, layers in more foggy grey drifts and a growing sense of the unease that comes with being just slightly lost. But while the feel is present, it’s distant, a worry that never quite forms but which makes you keep your guard up. You find yourself trying to peer through the mist as it rolls past, the high end like an uncertain breath, the low end the rich rumble of an earthy, open maw. This is a gateway to a different place. “Persistence of Dream Memory” is a comparatively shorter piece that ends the journey. From the start it is lighter in tone, high pads belying the penumbral landscape you’ve just passed through. Nerell lets us resurface slowly; we glide upward, patiently. Sometimes we hear a chime. We have been returned.
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.