Drophead vs. Silent Land Time Machine From Ashes Comes the Day

[Holodeck; 2014]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: post-rock, avant-garde classical
Others: HRSTA, Hangedup, Jonathan Slade, Eric Craven

From Ashes Comes the Day, the new EP from Austin, TX multi-instrumentalist/label guru Jonathan Slade (a.k.a. Silent Land Time Machine) and Montreal’s Eric Craven (Drophead), is a labor of love between two musicians with a shared passion for their work, while also showcasing the growing camaraderie between Slade’s Holodeck Records and the Montreal experimental scene that includes Craven, Marie Davidson (whose self-titled cassette was released on Holodeck last year), and many others. For his part, Slade’s work as Silent Land Time Machine has progressed into darker terrain, from the relatively blissful melancholy of 2008’s &hope still to the more intense outré sounds of 2012’s I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solitude. SLTM’s intense string work meshes well with Craven’s electro-acoustic tinkering, which he’s perfected with his contributions to HRSTA and Hangedup (and as part of the wide-reaching Constellation Records). Together, their talents combine for an EP that’s equal parts post-rock and avant-garde classical, with every bit of the intensity and emotional heft that’s permeated both of their work.

The collaboration between these two artists has been known for quite awhile now, most notably through Travis Bird’s killer essay for Decoder, but now that the results are finally here, there is more to consider beyond the mere anticipation of their partnership. While the name they’ve come up with for this project, Drophead vs. Silent Land Time Machine, may seem like a curious choice, it reflects their workmanship, with Slade and Craven having clearly pushed each other out of their musical comfort zones to create something neither could do on their own. The results are so seamless that one could imagine that Slade and Craven holed up in a tiny rehearsal space and created this record from hours of jamming and improvisations, but the bulk of it was actually composed separately. This cohesiveness is a testament to the tight musical connection between the two, which was likely cultivated by SLTM’s sojourn to Montreal back in July 2013.

The first five minutes of From Ashes Comes the Day will immediately lure you in, featuring a slow-building set of strings, guitar, and noise effects that climax and give way to a viola-led interlude that’s both simplistic and beautiful. The tranquility quickly degrades into a lengthy back and forth between guitar and viola, serving as a decayed, fragmented complement to the short-lived moments of clarity that do occasionally pop up on the plainly titled “I” and “II.” The latter opens in a dirge-like manner, with disparate guitars overlayed with sonic grit and grime, which stays that way for the majority of the track’s 11 minutes. The album’s second half is a tad more reserved than the first, though it feels like a gentle comedown from the intensity of the first half. As Holodeck themselves write, “one moment’s fragmented wreckage degenerates into the fertile breeding ground for the genesis of the next,” and while we can typically take press sheets with a grain of salt, this is an apt descriptor for the ways in which each section of the EP weave in and out of one another. Musical phrases rise, fall, and resurface, while desiccated sounds creep up on the more organic, lively passages. The entire piece is a wonderful contradiction between hope and despair, growth and decay, that provides a compelling theme to the listening experience.

From Ashes Comes the Day is a pristine example of two talented musicians effortlessly merging their aesthetics without interference, with the resulting EP sounding haunting, gorgeous, and endlessly listenable. While Slade and Craven may be based thousands of miles apart, they come together as if they’d been collaborating for years, with no signs of growing pains or unevenness to be heard anywhere on this record.

Links: Drophead vs. Silent Land Time Machine - Holodeck

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