Reign Water by Chicago-based guitarist and Drone aficionado Cinchel aka Jason Shanley is one of his few works which are released by a label. In this case, Emily Loren Ferrell is lucky enough to feature it on her Subterranean Tide label. Released in February 2014, available to stream and download for free at Bandcamp, the album’s appearance on the label has not manifested itself in an arbitrary manner. The opposite is the case: the name and meaning of the label are found throughout the album as Cinchel takes the stardust-coated dark matter bass of Isolation Experiments Vol 1, the quasi-Hauntology case study of Quiet Nights, Lonesome Woods and as well as the rock-solid dobs and blebs of Diamond In The Rough (all 2013) down below. The impression of being trapped in a cave while still floating in space results in a heterodyned coocurrence, one whose key features are bedazzlement, bewilderment and many other be-nouns. This dichotomy must not happen. But it does on Reign Water, a release whose liquedous physiognomy is more of an apparition than an agenda. Indeed, it is surprising how few instances of your classic Ambient’s driblets, faucets or bubbles are injected here. A field recording here, a processed sound source there, held together by guitars, yep, it would have been so easy to do just that. But Cinchel’s final vision differs very much, is excitingly remote and prone to show frequencies that want to remain independent at all costs (though the release is free). Read more about a highly intriguing and alienating work that leaves the listener in the dark throughout its runtime… by blinding him or her with incisive light.
The eponymous opener showcases the tools and textures at Cinchel’s disposal, and considering the oftentimes raucous-exciting space explorations, even if they take place in mere forests such as in the multifaceted Quiet Nights, Lonesome Woods, Reign Water offers a completely calcined complexion. Highly placid and fragile, wraithlike and tastefully diluted like the front artwork, the gateway to Cinchel’s gossamer EP is torn between the crystalline elysium, its various synth-oid sparks and an overdriven low frequency undercurrent whose stokehold protrusions vaporize thermal warmth like a heating loop recirculation pump. The term loop clinches the interim perception, for the undulation is indeed based on loops, however, they soak and seep through the etiolated 2D panorama. Even though the frequencies of both the pristine and the rubicund countermovements reach the listener’s ear simultaneously, they seem to be kept apart by a razor-sharp selectivity. These two layers are not meant to be united. Which, of course, is what happens in the next track anyway. From The Rooftop Through The Gutter is a moderately heavy behemoth running for over nine minutes. The concomitance of somnolent engine casings in tandem with their characteristic micro oscillations and superimposed diaphanous sine tones as luminous threads lead to polyphonous formations of wonder, verdure and magic. Were it not for the pipes, machineries and radiators as the backdrops, their scintillating light would evoke a fairy tale. The very moment these innocent sine tones face screeching guitar juxtapositions, the track ventures into space and becomes in what I have previously called a conglomeration of Jericho dissonances and superimposed apparitions that defy the space ape! Or in short: cacophonies break through walls. From The Rooftop Through The Gutter translates to “from the blistering ignis fatuus to a ablaze turmoil.”
While the mood of this second track is hard to pinpoint as it gyres between a purified mystique and shady enigma, the following Water, Dirt, Flower Food ventures into the 8-bit cavern without leaving the tumular bass hills (haze bills?) behind. Stylophone-like tone ladders and their siren-esque counterparts fathom the abyss, their afterglow diffuses in adjacency to the thickly wadded efflorescence of the bass tones. Jason Shanley balances the antagonistic forces out yet again, as these elasticized and severely alatoric tones epitomize a charmingly dim-witted rusticity in the simmering melting pot, but as usual, a shift takes place in the last third which is more than a simple adjuvant, for the complete tonality shifts into dark Space-Age climes. Pizzicato strings of Horror flutter like dissonant specters. The Orb’s infamous Pomme Fritz (1994) comes to mind. The centroid Animals Take Shelter meanwhile truly lives up to the label name as Cinchel creates a subterranean tide if there ever was one. Chlorotic ogres, opprobrious augers, everything augurs. Drill machines cover the l(ac)unar twinkles, Glitch prongs vesiculate in the nullspace, bagpipe-like fanfaronades spiral in order to augment the antrum arcanum. Oddly celestial and catchy, the melody in the centerpiece is powdered with a Baroque allure and feels like a coxswain in the dark. The recalcitrance of the ubiquitous bass rivulets notwithstanding, Animals Take Shelter has bloomed from a stolid beast into a beautifully amorphous transcendence aquiver with euphony.
The Cold Appears is not the prospect one wants to encounter after the blissful elation that is Animals Take Shelter, but what is a track name if the attached soundscape itself seems like the actual aphorism? Coldness is not particularly graspable during the whole track, the opposite is the case, as Cinchel ventures into a pentatonic desert of seething hot Banghra sinews, oriental prolongations of sitar-like surfaces complete with a powerful fluxion of electric current. Once a faux-Hammond organ plays snake charmer melodies, all parallax layers are in sync, the arrangement feature-complete. It is as if the listening subject is now finding itself near a surreal oasis. Obviously, the humble reviewer is on the wrong path here (just here?), for it only takes a look at the album title and concept to circumvent and ridicule the saffron dustiness that he feels when listening to the track, but it has to be said regardless: The Cold Appears is the scapegrace and cheeky rascal of the album, offering an exciting mirage of drones and intense heat. The apotheosis All Is Renewed then recalibrates the formerly introduced 8-bit airwaves, boosts their amount in order to cover the darkness in euphony and marks the divine insinuation of the title with ecclesiastic timbres and the occasionally warped dissonant interval. Gone are the machine-like bass accentuations. They are now glued to an increasingly complex helix of 8-bit streams until Jason Shanley, in keeping with the theme, takes the guts out of the track and reverses its magnanimous aura, leaving both a clanging clinging industrial forsakenness for the listener to swallow and the question of whether two 8-bit layers make a 16-bit one.
Cinchel knows how to treat a guitar and create compositions that are shuttling around the outer rims of the antediluvian but still very much adored concept of Space Ambient. On Reign Water, these interstices, moods and overtones are still strikingly audible, but entrapped in earthen or, well, subteranean dioramas. Gravity and mucoid murkiness are much more apparent on this work than on any other artifact of Jason Shanley’s discography. Three particularities are remarkably well realized here: first, the aforementioned separation and seclusion of the antagonistic forces. It is hard – and possibly superfluous – to describe this aesthetic concept, as it takes place in one’s mind only, not in the tracks themselves, but the way Cinchel arranges them by adding both a twinkling and a dun-colored layer to the scenery is downright scary. This has been done before, but the effect feels like that of opposite magnets that can only be pressed together with a lot of will and anger. So regardless of which of the first four tunes one is absorbing, this strange effect remains omnipresent. The frequencies and tonalities act on their own and don’t want to have anything to do with their foes. Oh, the humanity! The second particularity is found in the shapeshifting movement of each track. The way it starts does not mean much, for its end is either messy, brazen and metallic by design… or luringly languorous and ethereal. The third victim, er, victory then comprises of the strongly piercing and thinned strings. The low frequency cascades remain feisty and strong as ever, the zoetropic arabesques and other callisthenic crystals gleam and glitter, but only in pastel colors, not in neon lights, despite their occasionally bold luminescence. They do not glow so much as they flicker in fear of the liquid that surrounds them. In the end, Cinchel’s Reign Water remains true to his spacey ambience, whether he intended this or not. The dissonances, alkaline protuberances and harsh frequency benders make this an experimental work that does not forget to add melodious instances and situations of solace.
Further listening and reading:
- Cinchel’s Reign Water is available for free at Bandcamp.
- Cinchel and Subterranean Tide use Twitter: @cinchel & @SubTide.
Ambient Review 318: Cinchel – Reign Water (2014). Originally published on Feb. 19, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.