Artist: Hourglass Drops vs. Norss
Label: Feelscape Recordings
Website: http://www.hourglassdrops.com, http://www.myspace.com/norss
The packaging is obviously handmade, and it is almost cool, but in too many ways does it fall short (and it falls very short). The case is a nice sturdy blue envelope, and the CD itself is inside a clear plastic sleeve, but that’s about where the good qualities end. The CD itself has no design whatsoever on it, it’s just clear (I put the CD in upside-down the first time I played it because there is nothing to distinguish top and bottom) and the front cover ‘image’ and the back labels of the package are hand-printed and just stuck on. I could almost deal with the back labels despite their lackluster appearance, but the front image is simply a very shitty-quality black and white blur (with an emphasis on the low quality). They could’ve at the very least had this stuff printed up at a store or something.
There are six tracks featured on “Stella”. The first five are by Hourglass Drops and the last one, a 37 minute opus (or is it?), is by Norss. The first thing the listener will immediately notice is how quiet this album is. It’s really quiet. Really, really fucking quiet. I have my speakers on max volume and I can still barely hear it. The next thing you will notice is how utterly devoid of content this album is. It’s probably one of the most minimal drone albums I have ever come into contact with. This doesn’t automatically mean the album is worthless, as there are some decent works of drone out there, but in this case it does.
The Hourglass Drops tracks are a prime example of how not to make drone. The mixes are very unbalanced, the main drone is always heavy in one specific frequency range (usually mid, occasionally low), and completely void of the rest of the frequency spectrum. This would be ok if there were other elements in other frequency ranges to balance this out, but there aren’t. Every track is one drone and then a couple of random sounds thrown in every few minutes. Sometimes the volume will increase or decrease for no apparent reason. The tracks make absolutely no sense and there is no sense of structure whatsoever. I would imagine the purpose of a minimal drone album release on a label called Feelscape, would be to evoke some kind of emotion from the listener or to paint a beautiful sonic landscape using the tools of emotion and synthesis. These tracks completely fail to do that. The elements in each track make no sense next to each other, and succeed only in sounding totally out of place and random. There is nothing beautiful or timeless or emotional to be found here. There is no sense of production here either; all the sounds are totally raw and heavily lack dynamics, punch and cohesion. The different parts do not mesh at all and it just sounds like someone decided to stack some random sounds for no particular reason with no additional processing or mixing. There are a few sounds that have a slight fantasy-esque feel to them and could in theory comprise a decent ambient track, however they are used in such a lackluster fashion that they forfeit all potential merit.
The Norss track is not much better. It sounds like a couple of notes from a cheap bass guitar recorded using the shittiest equipment available and then a few other noises layered on over top of it. The bass is unnecessarily loud and the terrible recording/production gives it a very noisey and unbelievably sloppy tone. There are some other elements in the mix which sound halfway pleasant, but unfortunately they are all but eaten alive by the terrible bass drone. It sounds like this guy mixed this on his laptop speakers and tried desperately to compensate for the lack of bass in said speakers, only to make a fatal error and instead painfully overcompensate. To his credit the song has a tiny bit of dynamics, and a few times throughout the nearly 40 minute endeavor the bass drone dips a bit and lets some other noises shine through, however there is almost always a loud static/white noise hiss and the bass never fully recedes to allow anything more pleasant to become fully visible.
Production is nearly nonexistant here. I would not be surprised if this was all recorded live, using cheap equipment and a poor mixer or interface (or perhaps just a cheap microphone next to an amplifier) with absolutely no post-production.
Both groups could benefit tremendously from learning some mixing and editing techniques as well as investing in some higher quality source material to work with. Of course, there is also a small thing called mastering which so many ambient 'producers' seem to think is unnecessary…
Artistic Merit: 0/10
One of the least inspired pieces of sound I have ever heard
For the Hourglass Drops tracks, the flow is terrible. The very few elements which sparsely populate the mix have little in common with one another, and each element sounds out of place and no sense of flow is ever established.
For the Norss track, I give him a few points because his track isn’t totally stagnant and if you wait long enough there are some almost decent elements that flow in and out. Unfortunately, no matter what great elements he could have added, nothing could possibly make up for the utterly abysmal bass tone and excess static hiss.
Totally pointless when there is so much other ambient music out there. There are tons of netlabels which offer much, much better ambient for FREE. Sitting quietly listening to the sounds of the world is much more enjoyable than thing. If these artists are going to pursue music (and try to sell it no less), I highly, highly, highly encourage them to spend a lot of time studying music theory & production.