Billy Gomberg
Slight at that Contact [12-inch; Students of Decay]

In 2014 I interviewed Students of Decay head Alex Cobb about his own music and various musings on the state of experimental noise and drone. At one point we spoke of “the enchantment of the everyday,” and as Cobb elaborated, “Applied to music, it’s this idea that there are very interesting sounds (that of course have different subjective “meanings” to every auditor) that exist in the world and are viable, even ideal, for use in compositions.” On the latest Students of Decay release, Billy Gomberg applies that phrase to a bleak urban hellscape. The sounds of the machines—running at all hours of the day—become more prevalent the later into the night, when everyone else has drifted off. These are the sounds we grow used to in the background; of the electronics that hum, the subways and sewers that shuffle beneath our feet. When we’re in an environment devoid of those sounds, we grow uneasy as we confront the cold silence of our surroundings.

Slight at that Contact is the sound of literal urban decay, where every crack and hiss overpowers the occasional soothing tone and naturalistic element. “Caprice” stands out for the disparate sounds of field recordings that give way to a choppy, amorphous drone. “Openness” is the closest the album gets to a soothing feel, if only because the cold electroacoustic tones numb the senses with a wall of hushed distortion. Perhaps the dark post-election political landscape influenced my listening, but Slight at that Contact sounds angry, disaffected, yet ultimately defiant. One could listen to escape the darkness that surrounds us, but Slight at that Contact invites in the harsh tones we relegate to the background, providing a soothing balm to our modern malaise.


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