Birchville Cat Motel Beautiful Speck Triumph

[Last Visible Dog; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: noise, minimal drones, experimental
Others: Phill Niblock, Sunroof!, Dead C, Polmo Polpo, Shalabi Effect

I've never been to New Zealand in the physical sense, but traveling there online has proven to be quite an experience in itself. By default, it will have to be the only experience I'll have with the country until I can make the time and money to go in person. From what I've found, New Zealand is a country that has a multitude of beautiful lakes, snow-capped mountains, and even palm trees. In my mind, it has to be one of the most perfect places on the planet. Campbell Kneale is from New Zealand and is the one-man drone team behind Birchville Cat Motel. His story isn't necessarily magnificent, nor is the way he records his music; but you wouldn't know this simply by listening to his gargantuan drones and beautiful "noise" experiments that fill your headphones. In fact, this is some of the most remarkable music I've ever heard to come out of the drone field.

Beautiful Speck Triumph is Kneale's latest release that clocks in at over two hours, and like his many other albums, it contains a seamless balance between chaotic and tranquil. Containing two discs that allow you to spend (what seems like) an entire evening being washed over with sound, it delivers precisely what the album's title suggests. In capacity, it's similar to the way we were all thrown aback the first time we heard the extravagant sounds of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but it's also affective in reminding us of the puzzled joy we experienced when we scratched our heads to the self-titled debut album by Shalabi Effect. Beautiful Speck Triumph deserves similar accolades, mainly because it's an album that captivates the core of what independent music fans live for: passion, individuality, edginess, beauty, integrity, and value.

The first disc's focus leans heavily towards the noisy aspect of Birchville Cat Motel's music. Something that begins as a minimal sounding introduction gradually becomes a transmutation of densely populated static and diverse found-sounds. Admittedly, most songs of this temperament begin to take a negative effect once played over a lengthy period of time; but as these songs have shown, the expertise of Kneale carries them where they need to go with the greatest of ease.

There is a particular moment on the title track where I convinced myself that I was witnessing a part of something greater than my own daily existence. A guitar-drenched feedback drone that begins at about the eight-minute mark blossoms open to make the largest reverberation you're going to find on any album. It'll be at that very moment you too will see the sheer genius behind this New Zealand drone-master/ex-florist's newest album. That's right, I said it — a florist. When you learn, too, that Kneale records his music in a shed in his backyard during the very late hours of the evening, you'll feel a little warmth knowing that you've connected with something this great from someone who seems to be recording from a completely different time and place. And if you listen loud enough, you may just float out of your seat.

Disc 1:
1. White Ground Elder
2. Trembling Frost Spires
3. Speck Fears
Disc 2:

1. It's More Fun To Compute
2. The Romance of Certain Old Clothes
3. Beautiful Speck Triumph