Troposphere is the first new record by Sapporo-based sound artist Ryo Nakata aka Ryonkt after nearly two years. Released in 2012 on the Twice Removed label in Perth, Australia, Ryonkt provides six Drone compositions of the enthralling kind. However, the artist implicitly asks you to accept and actually worship a few of its purposeful shortcomings and limits. It is these limits that captured my heart, so Nakata's tactics might work on you as well. When Twice Removed executive Gavin Catling invited me to browse the archives free of charge for review purposes, I was more than happy to do just that, for the label is known for its intimate Glitch-dispersed Drone releases which always encapsulate a certain warmth in juxtaposition to their fragility. See my recent review of Tim Bass' mini album I Have Become Overcome With Thoughts Of You, released in August 2012 on the same label, to get a better idea. Ryonkt's album, however, is anything like the label's offerings, and yet typical enough to link it to the catalog with ease, and that's why I've picked this specific album for an in-depth review. Three reasons come to mind immediately: firstly, Nakata didn't use any synth during the process of creation. The album is completely guitar-based, with further processing and filtering steps done in Abelton Live. Secondly, the depicted troposphere literally bursts due to its neon colors and the gargantuan soundscape; fragility is farther away than ever, and yet are there floating ornaments to be found, all of them deeply embedded in the guitar drones. And finally is there one particular element that makes Drone music so efficient, but is otherwise feared in most artistic ways of expression: monotony. I'm not talking about a monotonous 4/4 beat Dance stomper, for this album has no beats. No, the thick sound wall is erected via the help of micro-repetition and the occasional interspersed half-tone. The strict concentration on this kind of guitar-related monotony can be soothing or rather annoying, depending on the listener. I won't give a final statement for the moment, but try to stress the impressive ingredients of Nakata's six-track album. If you want, listen along to Ryonkt's full album on Bandcamp while you're reading this review.

Troposphere One fades in slowly, but right from the beginning are the multiple guitar drones powerful in their depiction of pressure and desperation – through monotony in minor – and euphoria which fends off the former moods already in the first minute by injecting colorful, synth-like streams of bliss and bagpipe-evoking (!) sublimeness. The strictly monotonous Drone song thus becomes fully saturated, the happiness doesn't shift at all, it is as if time stands still, it is exactly here that this piece as well as all of Nakata's remaining material becomes intriguing, for when nothing seems to change, anything at all, then it so happens that the listener on the other hand bathes in the microscopic alterations and oscillating half-tones that can be found in-between the fissures of the humongous wall of drones. The ten minutes of Troposphere One provide all these features. It's a proper Drone composition thanks to Nakata's good ear for textures, he really uses just guitars, and although they are heavily filtered, their characteristic traits shimmer through ever so slightly. Begone fragility, this tune is as large as it can get. Troposphere Two builds on the monotonous structures as expected, but shimmers in yellow colors, with deeper main drones and brighter accentuations. Brazen tone bursts are interwoven, but cannot be extracted or pinpointed with ease, for their metallic nature merges perfectly with the scenery. The base frame may be a darker guitar, but the mosquito-esque swirling twangs are the actual source of blithe. Troposphere Three is based on this pattern which is pitched up further, but complemented by an actual two-note melody. A revolution in terms of the endemic qualities! The liquedous, brightly blue-colored melody is a silkened sine creek that gleams majestically and permeates the pulsating guitar aorta. Another Drone piece with a hidden crystalline structure.

Troposphere Four is the second track with a duration of over ten minutes, and it boldly changes the piercing character of the album. The coruscating impetus is now exchanged with an aquatic, emerald-green and blurred drone layer that is both misty and abyssal in its deepness. Around this clear-cut nucleus waft bubbling guitar sparkles and high-note buzzes. And so it remains throughout the runtime, as the arrangement doesn't change once everything is in place. Although the superior drone isn't overly jaunty, it inherits a deep tranquility and peacefulness, and one adjusts to its mystique immediately. A very strong piece that might run a few minutes too long, but wouldn't entrance the listener in the same way if it was any shorter. Yet again does time seem to stand still. No variety is admixed. Troposphere Five reintroduces the pressure of Troposphere One, but injects one element of true progression: on top of a cherubic and yet melancholic guitar stream, there are brightly shining, heavily trembling sparkles of fire plus a wave-like sine drone. These sparkles grow in height and tone pitch, enlarging the luminescence and expanding their importance until they resemble the "bagpipe strings" of Troposphere One. The final piece, unsurprisingly called Troposphere Six, adds a river of ecclesial psychedelia to the troposphere, it is as if a one-note organ drone is in the epicenter while whitewashed, streamlined and tamed guitar particles are grouped around this soothing setting. Of great aesthetic interest are the slowly morphing half-tones. It would be too bold a statement to speak of proper melodies, but the glistening faux-organs and similarly texturized guitar scintillae create the best carved out corset and deliberately set limits, but before this incident is interpreted as weakness, the song fades out rather quickly, letting the album end on a rather surprising, if also established monotonous note.

Monotony is the actual progress. That's
Troposphere in a nutshell. I wouldn't be surprised at all if one were to distill only ten different notes off Ryonkt's album, but these stretched tones create whole walls of thickness and wealth. Fragility is nowhere to be found, this is as voluminous as Drone music can get, only S ND Y  P RL RS' debut Rex (2012) is even more saturated, but features admittedly eight times the notes in its specific spectrum. Despite the occasional glints of melancholia or tension, Troposphere remains in colorful, incisive waters; only Troposphere Four, one of the standout tracks, fortifies these waters with luxurious doses of mystique. Nakata's work is absolutely entrancing, and it is actually highly dangerous to listen to this music while driving at night. Its crunchiness camouflages its positively fatiguing qualities, but as it is common knowledge, loud or powerful music can make you drowsy, even the loudest club music causes this phenomenon. Troposphere makes no focus-related compromises, and although there is variety to be found – aquatic panoramas, churchly settings, piercing bagpipes –, this is an extremely stringent album. Ambient fans who really want to dive deeply into the dronescapes will find this album highly intriguing, whereas listeners who prefer both song-specific and concept-related variety will probably never reach the state of enjoyment for this particular work. The strength of Ryonkt's album can cause another listener's bewilderment, so be aware of a very strong monotony and pre-listen first. If all goes well, you'll get a good idea of the immersive flow this record can create as long as you're willed to succumb to the layers.




Ambient Review 118: Ryonkt – Troposphere (2012). Originally published on Sep. 5, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.