Diamond In The Rough






Diamond In The Rough is a three-track EP by the Chicago-based guitarrero and Dronemeister Jason Shanley aka Cinchel. Released on April 20, 2013 in order to coincide with that meaningful event called Record Store Day, it is available to fetch (name your price) and listen to in full at Bandcamp. Not only is the artist generous enough to let the listener decide the price for the titular diamond, no, at the same time he is also ferocious due to the highly limited physical edition of only five copies that come with a hand-painted sleeve which, of course, were given away to happy people at said Record Store Day when Cinchel played live at Lauries Planet of Sound in Chicago. The concept limited edition turns back to its roots, artificial scarcity rules. Luckily enough, Shanley is a profligate in terms of the use of textures. Diamond In The Rough is an adventurous and joyful release supercharged with mystique, a medieval arcaneness and earthbound structures that stand in contrast to his spacier live albums and EP's of 2013 such as Isolation Experiments Vol 1 and Sometimes You See Yourself (Through The Cosmos). The minute I became aware of Isolation Experiments Vol 1, I have felt that it could have had such a great space-related cover in order to properly synergize with its translucent effulgence and galactic airflows. And artworks this release got aplenty, for each ordered item received a different colorful gouachescape that did not necessarily refer to the implicit Space-Age theme of the live recording. It turns out that the self-painted cover of Diamond In The Rough helps very much in this regard. The three tracks feel more enigmatic and earthen, though the soil they are grounded on is traversed by ameliorating strata and omnipresent glitters. Diamond In The Rough is a particularly cinematic Drone album, the tracks feel meaningful and deep, but can be isolated from each other and still be enjoyed. There is no strict overarching narrative, only an aural theme of glints, guitars and gorgeousness. Cinchel places many vignettes and embeds them in Drone structures, but there are nonetheless surprises on this EP as well. I am figuratively blown away by each and every composition, and hail this humble release as a huge step forward, both melody- and texture-wise.


The eponymous title track is not only the gateway to Diamond In The Rough, but its very morphogenetic core which happens to be embedded in-between a helix of aquatic fractals. Instead of launching with the expected fade-in phase of several seconds and balmy Drone layers, Diamond In The Rough starts in medias res, with a gorgeously bubbling echo-coated fluxion of a moist and profound arpeggio. Textures and tonality burst at the seams in the very first seconds already, and as the architecture is repeated and gets louder over its course, the intensity is charged as well. That this vesiculation is guitar-based is a given in Jason Shanley's work. The emerald feeling is soon interpolated with a sun-dappled luminosity of excitatory drones which tower securely above the melting pot. Their infinitesimally overdriven scratches and hazy physiognomy make them curiously present and diffusely untouchable. Soon enough, these layers begin to bubble and oscillate as well. Clinging chimes lead to snoring dragons, the arrangement becomes incredibly louring (or was that luring?) all of a sudden; abyssal bass creeks float through the labyrinthine vaults, a pompous aura of opaqueness reigns. However, since Diamond In The Rough is based on vignettes, this state, while still maintained and resurrected for a few moments, is accompanied by blazingly iridescent and melodious Rave bells which do not seem gelid rather than supercharged with a powerful nostalgia. When this hypnotic segment wanes, the earthquake-evoking atmosphere is reintroduced, now with a greater impetus than before. Frosty bells gyrate around devastating explosions and rumbling cliffs. Diamond In The Rough, as it turns out, ends with a focus on the devastating roughness. Its progression, the various textures, reverberations, filters and melodies are, in short, an utter delight, a sublime bedlam.


A track called Skip follows next, and whatever may follow after the tohubohu rumpus of Diamond In The Rough, it cannot be as noteworthy and gargantuan, for the deep clefts and crevasses are still echoing in one's head. Cinchel draws the right conclusions, turns his attention on the meticulous look at a transcendental rhinestone and lets loose glistening glockenspiels and opalescent gongs. Short guitar licks are involved too, masked as ever. The tone sequences inherit an Asian feel of purity and tranquility which is then nullified by proper guitar thickets. The Drone aspects occur only accidentally due to the tendency of some tones to be a bit longer than its brethren. Otherwise, Skip gleams, plinks and sparkles. The timbre shuttles between a stern melancholia and short bursts of wondrousness. The aural colors are hatched and dark, but never is the ambience crestfallen. After more than two minutes, the first faithful drones turn up. Their sweeping undulation is eminently deep, mysterious and strangely benign. Another guitar layer unchains its crystalline square waves and twirls in-between the grinding gales of haziness. Technical descriptions like this, however, don't do the track justice, for it is again the interplay of the textures which makes Skip a terrific piece of euphony and solemnity despite its many counteracting ingredients. The flow of the bass maelstrom fills the whole (head-)room, the injected melodies traverse along the spiraling serpentines, and let me not forget to stress the primeness of the purified bell sparks next to the Far Eastern traits at the beginning. The only thing that is wrong with Skip is its very title. I hope it is about a guy named Skip rather than the incitement to neglect this progressive dream piece.


The finale is melodramatically called Free. Its complexion consists of the same silver-brazen dew droplets already infused in Skip, but here they resemble echoey xylophones with a simulated wooden decay phase that is incredibly enchanting in juxtaposition to the overdriven yet harmoniously warped-warbled guitar capsules. The aura is uplifting and profound, lofty yet meaningful. Free creates a whirlwind right from the get-go with miraculous inductions, wide open caverns and dripping deserts. There is one particularly noteworthy thing Cinchel does right on this track, a thing that has heretofore been annihilated in the previous two tracks: stringency. Despite Free being the longest track of almost 13 minutes, Jason Shanley takes his time and allows the listener to adjust to the mélange of faux-xylophones and perfectly real guitar drones. As an intermediary result, the listener gets swallowed and encounters a zone out state that is hard to reach, let alone to maintain in progressive, ever-shifting tracks. On Free, the relaxing state of bliss works flawlessly. For more than five minutes, artificial mallet instruments and guitars correlate, breed the same loops whose cusps are cleverly silkened so that they do not feel like overly repetitive apparitions. In the sixth minute, the xylophones are muted, only the power of the guitars and a wraithlike ether in the background merge with each other. The mood is full of contentment and rapture. This won't change until the very end when the layers thin out and Free is finished. Only then does it become apparent that it is spliced together of two large parts of roughly equal durations. Free unites Cinchel's abilities to create symbiotic Dronescapes whose layers work in unison and are allowed to unfold freely. And even after their wavelet juncture, their state is nurtured and kindled for several minutes. And this is the actual feat of Free; it is as powerful and luring as the other two tacks, but more cohesive, less alatoric.


Diamond In The Rough has hit a nerve. And if it did not, diamonds cut through 95% of all surfaces on Earth, and so it can easily infect the brain with its glistening luminosity anyway. All three tracks are superb and essential artifacts of Jason Shanley's craftsmanship. Despite the positively streamlined approximation, ever-enthralling wealth of textures, energetic lachrymosity of the guitars as well as the multi-faceted metamorphoses that form micro-vignettes which are then spliced together on the first two tracks, there is a certain cliché engraved in the soundscapes that has been heard numerous times in various genres: the plinking glitters that transcode the fractured light of the titular diamond into music. They shimmer in beautiful colors and ennoble an EP which would otherwise have been all about streams and washes of Drone. Here, these glowing shards and vesicles distantly remind of the Glitch genre, but they are far too mellow and soft to be truly connected to it. As usual, Cinchel saturates his tracks with vigorous colors and contrasts. The bass lines rumble and roll in gunmetal hues, the guitars draw from a red range and admix turquoise tittles to the scenery. All tracks have another thing in common: they are wonderfully balanced, they have that sense of adventure and grandiloquence, but instead of venturing into space, Cinchel remains in a microcosm on Earth, or to be more precise, takes a meticulous look onto the surface of a shiny diamond which is unsurprisingly placed in the rough; even this roughness is fascinatingly earth-shaking, and when the guitars are overdriven or overexposed, they never lose their warmth and amicability, their mystique and clarity. Diamond In The Rough is simply a gorgeous work for the very reasons I think I have pinpointed. Notwithstanding, somehow the true beauty of its core remains hidden. I just know that I tremendously enjoy this release. It factors in the listener, never betrays him or her with cheap thrills or an unwanted balance-disturbing U-turn. This EP will stay with me ad infinitum.



Further listening and reading:

  • Purchase (name your price) and listen to Diamond In The Rough at Bandcamp.
  • Follow Cinchel on Twitter: @cinchel.




Ambient Review 213: Cinchel – Diamond In The Rough (2013). Originally published on May 8, 2013 at