Deep Opacity






Deep Opacity is the first full-length release by the Detroit-based Ambient producer Ian Kennedy aka Attenuated and continues exactly at the very point where his previous EP Night Of Sense from May 2012 ended. The album is again released on Space Slave Editions and comes in the shape of an edition of 100 cassettes with water color inserts plus hand-cut stickers as well as a download edition; both of them can be purchased at the Space Slave Editions store ($3!) and fully streamed at Bandcamp. The album’s press blurb comprises of exactly two sentences, and I can wholeheartedly agree with the portentous implications they carry with them: “An immense second processing built for one with a clear head. Or no head.” It is indeed true, Deep Opacity is a hefty and deliberately rough dob which could become a diamond eventually, but not in the final state the album is presented and situated. Oscillating between walls of noise, gales of tension, sparks of guitar tones and rivers of floating synths, Attenuated populates his neck-breaking adventures with contradictory and incompatible sources. Regardless of what texture is applied, it is entirely worshipped, which means that the respective impetus is breathtaking and feels forceful. The very best example of Kennedy’s processed sounds would be the vuvuzela-oid bagpipe sirens which are prominently featured in his Night Of Sense EP and reappear in Deep Opacity as well. Before the bewilderment about the industrial turmoil grows too large, the musician offers a different viewpoint and suddenly ennobles his constructions with audaciously dreamy synths, polylayered pipe organs or camouflaged guitars. One thing is for sure: Attenuated grabs the time-related boundaries of the album format and makes use of them in his typically megalomaniac, overexposed way. That’s the spirit, and this one deserves a meticulous look. 


There are many ways to open the gate to a new album by means of the opener. Attenuated chooses the ultimate one and harks back to his stupendous Night Of Sense EP. Sure, defrosting ideas of yore can be seen as more than a bit critical, but here the oomph is terrifically right and bedazzling. The anacrusis of the first track Quartz is almost as impressive as its runtime of a whopping 18+ minutes, for Ian Kennedy merges the bagpipe-fueled drone incision of Wireframe Fantasy with the vuvuzela vesiculation of Becoming Shared, both of those tracks being prominent parts of his first EP. It is as if no time has passed. The upwards spiraling glissando of the warbled falsetto bagpipes is anything but majestic and thrones in front of an ecclesial backdrop as nurtured by a genteel organ. Pristine sizzles and mantra-like chants become enmeshed in the increasingly luminous organ walls and augment the solemnity of this colorless mineral. The polymorphous ever-changing structure soon widens its periphery as Kennedy drops sawtooth-like buzzing frequency layers and heavily screeching gelid Glitch shards, with their overdriven alkaline bile expanding the noise layers to an elysian horror. Quartz then risks a fleeting visit into Medieval times via a monotonous wraithlike organ drone and a wondrous-insouciant performance on a lute or banjo. These pointillistic string droplets are astutely mountainous and lofty, resembling both aeriform mountain ranges and moss-grown swamps at the same time. Attenuated rounds the vignette galore off with voluminous transcendental synth washes in minor which twirl in adjacency to acoustic guitar twangs and New Age-oid bells and whistles. Once Quartz has entered this sunset phase and fades out for good, the dizzying feint becomes apparent: this is simply nine short vignettes baked into one sedimentary capsule. But what a progressive trip that is! I cannot detect an innermost logic, a set of rules or let alone a master plan which aggregates these single sections, but the journey is nonetheless a positively histrionic escapade.


Since this conglomeration of Attenuated’s distinct range of styles is depicted in this eclectic opener and centerpiece alike, Kennedy now concentrates on the maintenance and prolongation of the respective mood. Plainsong already gives the churchly implications bounteously away in its title, and it is the seraphic chants of Michelle Collett that add a haunting quality to the purposefully emaciated stylophone-like heterodyne layers at the beginning. Blackness surrounds the softly glowing synth strings, their plinking delicacy is soon adamantly interpolated by cherubic synth washes and a general voluminosity. The rather contemplative and pensive tonality causes a curious distance, the listening subject does not feel fully embraced, the distantly cacophonous intertwinement increases this perception further. Plainsong remains dusky and ruminative. Indestructible Past then comes in the shape of a thunderstruck enigma loaded with piercing bumblebee-like vuvuzelas and the lachrymose lamento of gyrating violins of a Middle Eastern timbre. This tune is loop-based, but Kennedy camouflages the cusps and interstitial suture via the orbiting buzzes. Crepuscular and forsaken, Indestructible Past is reminiscent to the musing spirits in Plainsong. The sub theme of interweaving thoughts and emotions is meanwhile completed with Slackened Threads, an eminently soft and silkened Space-Age antrum filled with luminescent whistles and polar pulses in front of mellow bass blebs and grey guitar-accentuated boundaries. Everything feels thinned out and misty despite the omission of all too heavy reverberations. Mystical and quirkily playful, the dancing structure of the pulsating spirits is as mysterious as it is cute. Attenuated’s most placid and pensive arrangement to date.


Five tracks into the album, and Pendulum is the first progressive critter which elevates the listener with euphonious layers while it neglects its title. A Drone piece par excellence of 18+ minutes, it enchants right from the get-go via a wonderfully aqueous-moist fluxion of crystalline purity onto whose light blue complexion vibraphone-like flecks are shimmering in iridescent mellifluousness. The insouciance of this textural base is a boon. Even though the Detroit-based producer wastes all the time in the world by maintaining the same tranquilizing state without any movement whatsoever for over five minutes, a shift takes place soon enough in the form of sanguine synth alloys whose erbaceous verdure coalesces with a buzzing bass drone. A contravention of a sort, these vibrant sinews tower above the meditative riverbed, hissing flumes and gales expectorate force and power. The gorgeously warped and wonky glissando of the synths then resembles spectral apparitions while the harmonious vibraphone-like glints remain in a peaceful state. The simultaneity of these conflictive portions does work very well. Pendulum is way too long for the workup of all ideas, but remains a strong Drone song. Technical Individuals then turns out to be an enthralling two-part Drone construction, with its first phase being a polyphonic superimposition of a golden glistening effulgence entangled with underlining bass runlets and shredded Pagan flutes which explodes into a cavalcade of kaleidoscopic synth pad arabesques of the Oriental kind, whereas the second part is an incredibly low-keyed field recording of water droplets, affable chiseling and whisper-quiet synth clouds. What a counterpart to an already dichotomous construction! The finale is called Dilate and propitiates the entire bucolic bursts and noisy eruptions that took place heretofore by moulding them into a spring-like anthem of bliss and happiness. Notwithstanding these strong emotions, all ingredients of Dilate are carefully balanced and do not outshine each other, whether it is the pentatonic taste of Tibet in the eight-note flute melody, the rustling grasslands, the heavily reverberated chants or the coruscating sparks. This would not be a work by Attenuated if there was not a startling shift in place at the very end of this final tune, but it is probably only the forewarning of the noisy things to come.


The beauty of the noise-laden erections and flumes by Ian Kennedy’s Attenuated moniker cannot be denied, nor can their bedazzling peculiarities be ignored. Even though I am of the opinion that the Detroit-based musician tries to mediate between the piercing bagpipes, Middle Eastern tonalities and well-known effects of sylphlike drone dioramas, Deep Opacity is a heavy brute of a full-length debut. The few moments where Kennedy tones down and fathoms out the contrapuntal effects of placidity and comparable quiescence such as in Technical Individuals and Plainsong, there is a strange heaviness and burdensome mystique emblazoned which does not let the listening fully relax. One has to be cautious. I am not sure whether the artist would be d’accord if anyone reduced his sounds to the exquisite fabrication of vuvuzela-resembling blisters and klaxon buzzes, but this is indeed one field of knowledge which Attenuated knows fully well and thankfully takes over as an essential remainder from his Night Of Sense EP. But the guitar scents are equally surprising and convincing, for they are devoid of any clichéd path, gleam ominously and inherit a medieval aura, no matter how clumsy a description this may seem. Whatever the current state of the respective arrangement may be, Kennedy ventures into the extremes, the polar opposites time and again, thus creating an album where multitudinous forces loom in the distance only to approach the listening subject in search of a closer contact. The ever-shifting kaleidoscope that is the opener Quartz shows the producer’s base frame best, a strange remark given its quasi-alatoric changes in direction. In a different vein, Pendulum pushes the purest translucency to the fore, but as is the case with all translucent things, there is something diffusely visible beneath the shell. Drone fans who like their music to be noisy and euphonious in equipollent parts shall not miss Deep Opacity. Its title is exactly right, and so is the adventure factor.



Further listening:

You can purchase and stream Deep Opacity at Bandcamp and the Space Slave Editions store.



Ambient Review 244: Attenuated – Deep Opacity (2013). Originally published on Jul. 31, 2013 at