Jason Shanley aka Cinchel is a Chicago-based Drone artist who is probably best known for his manifold Dump releases on which he groups several of his unnamed tracks of the same style or genre together. His 2012 LP release Stereo Stasis that is also available as a digital download on Cinchel's Bandcamp page does not only feature proper track titles, but is keen on displaying a great variety. Though there are just three tracks gathered on the LP, all of them mastered by 12k label boss Taylor Deupree, Shanley makes sure that they are distinct enough from each other while still retaining high-quality alienated, filtered and warped guitar strings in juxtaposition to Fender Rhodes organs and software-processed drones. Whether you prefer your Drone Ambient to be warm and balmy, lofty and icy or aquatic and deep, you get all of these flavors on this LP. There is only one particular emotion that is not met by Stereo Stasis, and that is eeriness. While gloominess is at times perceptible, it is literally shattered and only interwoven in the form of rudimentary fragments. The good mood outweighs doleful moments, and even when Cinchel is coming up with his deepest and most mesmerizing textures and layers, the listener feels never forlorn or uneasy. This is also verified by the wonderful hand-painted cover artwork. Technicolors always brighten up the day. Let's dive into his drone landscapes and find out about its strengths and weaknesses in greater detail.
Stereo Stasis launches with Revelations Upon Waking (Mysteries), and it is a great start due to its large scope: golden-shimmering, incessantly pulsating synth washes and darkly droning guitars create the well-known oxymoron of a crystal-clear haze that is so hard to achieve and all the more majestic once it's come to fruition in a Drone track. Shanley manages to come up with a phantasmagorically flowing stream of both contentment and pleasant anticipation that features fragmented remnants of eeriness, but these consist only of a few allotted notes in minor. The warm shelter-giving entanglement of the synths, guitars and Fender Rhodes organ reminds me of Gel-Sol's opener IZ off his eponymous album. Both compositions gleam and are illuminated by a positive aura. Cinchel, however, adds further iridescent ornaments to the mix that play out boldly around the four-minute mark: glittering Glitch layers with a glacial sustain, organic ever-changing music box droplets and thermal heat-fueled guitar twangs traverse by and are placed in front of the drone layers. When the drones fade out and make room for a tremoling, cascading version, the music box remains and is the last thing that is heard. I cannot stress enough the blithesome mood and the harmonious entanglement. The drones wash away over the listener, encapsulating him or her in a superstructure of happiness. Mind you, this is a Drone track, not a Rave anthem, so the happiness which is displayed is more likely a majestic grace. One can even hum along to the luminescence of the music box, and the harpsichord-esque tonality of the Fender Rhodes organ augments the plasticity that works well in the purposefully blurry flow of the drones. This is for the fans of Happy Drone music. Heaven knows if that genre even exists, but you get the meaning. It's a positive song to the max, with only a negligible amount of a few glimpses of dusky notes.
Static (Homeward Bound) is up next, and it's more enigmatic and much colder than the previous track, with a bold dose of seraphic mist: two layers of airy synth streams, one of them monotonous and the other humbly underlining the loftiness with small tone steps, are glued together. Shortly before the two-minute mark, a bass drone is introduced together with repeated cowbell-like clangs. The backing drones remain in their monotonous state, but are complemented by beautiful New Age-like strings of pristine purity and galactosamine strings, therefore boosting and nurturing the ethereality even more. In the final minute, Cinchel presents a few selected quavering guitar licks that fade out slowly. While this is a proper Drone track, it doesn't cater exactly to my needs. It is too thin and fragile most of the time, and it injects a clear-cut dose of coldness due to most of its ingredients being played in higher regions. I prefer the warmer guitar-laden Drone sounds that Cinchel presented in the first track. That being said, I'm by no means disappointed or let down by Static (Homeward Bound), it just doesn't trigger my favorite Drone style, though the sum of its elements is intriguing, especially so the incisively coruscating string that depicts a kind of inner innocence that is often found in tasteful New Age tracks. It expands the arcane traits of the composition, but once these are established and introduced, there is no place for the kind of mellifluous mellowness I so desire. My loss.
The final, almost 14 minutes long eerily titled Wandering / Collapse / Breakdown / Ultimate Heat Death is a gorgeously aquatic piece that morphs and changes according to its four parts which are implied in the title. The first phase consists of deliberately dated synth choir-like strings and blizzard-evoking beams of frost. The listener submerges deeper as an almost unnoticeable two-note theme is floating in the distance, all the while the hibernal synths and the heavily pulsating gloomy accompaniments are revved up and get louder. The listener is now swallowed by the heaviness of the synths, and eerie howls in the background suggest a cavernous underwater world despite the title of the track. Around the fifth minute, the howling synth fades out and makes room for an astonishingly dreamy syrup-laden atmosphere with the slightest traces of bubbling addendums. Gentle pulses undermine the solemnity of the synths. Eventually in the third phase, a gorgeously rapturous two-note theme is added; not only does it contain a detailed deepness, but its slight quirkiness remains in the head even when the song is long over. When the abyssal drones are joining, the depth of the song broadens – it is utterly entrancing, creating another oxymoron of light deepness. The final phase raises the tension thanks to submarine-like engine drones, the foggy stuttering of a static noise stream and a deeply droning bass flux. The song ends with a machine drone that fades into distance. Stereo Stasis hence ends with a very deep, soporific piece. It's hard to explain, but all these curlicues add tremendously to the quality of the song that feels like a proper journey inwards. It's in fact so deep and sounds so heavily processed that I didn't even spot one single guitar in this track, although some kind of string instrument must definitely be in there, as pointed out by Cinchel in the liner notes. Well, he got me fooled, as I'm washed away by one of the most beautiful aquatic tracks I've encountered. It's neither too heavy, nor too shallow; the balance is just right.
Stereo Stasis is a beautiful release with three very distinctive tracks that target every Drone lover's taste, I believe. Revelations Upon Waking (Mysteries) got me hooked instantly due to its warmth and strongly forward-looking optimism. I'm a Pop Ambient fan, so this track fulfills my specific needs and wishes to the point. There's anything bad about it, no way for improvements. It's still varied enough due to the scattered curlicues that add lightness to its golden aura, for example the music box melodies. It's probably no real music box anyway, but it's processed and filtered in a way that makes it sound similar to one such instrument. Static (Homeward Bound) is the thinnest track with a perceptible New Age flavor. The airy synth strings and the twinkling scintillae are definitely galactic, the atmosphere frosty and winterly. I'm not too keen on this track, but that's solely my loss. It's just that I love the other two tracks so much more! The closing anthem Wandering / Collapse / Breakdown / Ultimate Heat Death is liquedous, profound and offers a deepness that is complemented by memorable synth textures and abysmally cavernous drones. The variety of Cinchel's EP has its small stringency-related price, for you cannot possibly love all tracks equally. Luckily, Cinchel comes very close in this regard. Two out of his three tracks aren't just winners, but grand Ambient tracks where everything meshes perfectly. The mood isn't harsh or dejected, but either exuberantly gleeful – in relation to the Drone genre – or deeply mesmerizing and comforting. A strong release, all the more so due to its skillfully warped, heavily reworked guitar layers.
Fittingly enough, Cinchel's Twitter account is @cinchel.
Ambient Review 098: Cinchel – Stereo Stasis (2012). Originally published on Jul. 25, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.