Dialect Gowanus Drifts

[1080p; 2015]

Styles: ambient, field recordings, online mix-like, landscape ecology
Others: Jónó Mí Ló, James Ferraro, J. G. Biberkopf, Tangerine Dream, Gong, Cluster, Steve Reich

“Ikea stores next to huge burnt out shipping warehouses, squats next to Whole Foods, Artisan flower shops with dead dogs outside. Litter on the breeze and foghorns blowing across the water. Sirens, porn stores, storage, prisons, dogs barking, carparks, fast food, highways, burnt out massage parlors, old tires, wire fences, empty buildings, bus depots, raw sewage flowing.”

This is the landscape outlined on Gowanus Drifts’s Bandcamp page. It describes a scene typical of the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn. The picture is “decrepit and decayed,” with similarities to the post-industrial waterfront of Dialect’s hometown of Liverpool, UK. As a fellow Englishman from the industrial North West, it’s a familiar tune, and though the banality of post-industrial art influenced by such “grotesque beauty” is difficult to circumvent in many modern cities, in this case, there are more universal underpinnings to Gowanus Drifts aside from this specific portrayal. As aqnb effectively point out, it’s a landscape with signifiers shared by many cities, but there is a solace sought here through the music of the Earth as a whole. In particular, Dialect’s journey in ambience and texture — as well as his structural, non-linear approach to composition — place Gowanus Drifts in a field of recent works with similar tendencies. Even so, Dialect goes about this quest in his own manner, influenced outwardly by the psychedelics of Tangerine Dream, Gong, and Cluster.

At the forefront of Gowanus Drifts are the field recordings that often set up individual tracks with an explicit backdrop. In contrast to Ahnnu’s Perception, however, where the significance of field recordings, Birkut saw, had “to do with specific sounds or natural effects that are unplanned or unexpected, but that strike a nerve and provoke a moment’s pause,” their meaning here has perhaps more to do with their reference to the natural world and its ecological systems. Indeed, these complex systems also echo the makeup of our online environments, and Dialect finds equal interest in the interdependence of Xbox gameplay recordings and unboxing videos — the trend of uploaded recordings of unpacking consumer products.

In truth, because of their non-linear properties, landscapes — such as that of Gowanus, as well as the internet — become a “Gestalt” system much like a musical melody, wherein all parts are “related to each other by the general state of the whole” (Naveh, 2007), which might answer for the sensitivity among sound sculptors for the affinity of offline and online environments and music. Just as culture and history contribute to the character of a forest, an agricultural field, or a post-industrial area, in music, of course, it is not only the sonic, but also the extra-sonic cultural components and their corresponding histories that contribute to its character. “Flesh In The Pan” is weighted by a Chinese heritage, subsequent histories in Europe, and equally by the more latter-day baggage of sino-grime, with its zither instrumentation and dark undertones. The same can be said for “Cloud Chorale” and the contribution of church music — as well as the neoteric music that takes it as a reference point. Overall, this multi-layered consistency gives Gowanus Drifts a deeply universal essence. The continuum is also represented in its continual, “online mix”-like succession, which follows the same as Dialect’s previous release Advanced Myth on Tasty Morsels.

Opening with the ominous sound of dog barks and sirens, Dialect progressively sets Gowanus Drifts apart with the introduction of free-jazz horns and synths that continually boil and churn. “Waterfront Epiphany” opens with a similar reference to the natural world in the sound of crashing water, before swelling with Reich-like synth arpeggios and vocal interjections that seemingly emanate from an otherworldly organism of pop music. Throughout the album, Dialect rejects dichotomies, as the analogue and the digital interact harmoniously. On “Wings,” for example, acoustic guitars rest side by side with sine tones, while organically evolving forms interplay with synthetic stutters elsewhere. Although no doubt galvanized by the toxic wasteland of South Brooklyn, Gowanus Drifts also represents the formation of utopian, inclusive public space — or at least an attempt to mirror a CGI artist impression of it.

Links: Dialect - 1080p

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