Derek Rogers
Visual Echoes






Visual Echoes is a dichotomous six-track tape created by Los Angeles-based Ambient producer Derek Rogers and released in September 2014 on Mexico City’s committee for stupendous Drone and Glitch artifacts, better known as Umor Rex Records. The tape comes in a limited edition of 80 copies complete with a download code and can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp. The main themes of this album could be described as juxtaposition, dualism, the aforementioned dichotomy, or since I’m so crazily fond of quirkier expressions: contrastive titration processes. Describing Visual Echoes in a nutshell is a noble endeavor that is prone to fail, but if I had to do it, I’d use the genre pairing Glitch/Drone. A pinch of New Age is definitely harbored as well, and it is in these instances where the camouflaged melodies are brought more to the forefront. The omnipresence of bursts, slivers, vesicles and jitters is embedded within the equally ubiquitous drones made of whitewashed fans, metallic patterns and dubious droplets turned into elasticized cataracts. What sounds like a chaotic mess is actually much more soothing than one might expect, as Derek Rogers doesn’t fill the alcoves, moulds and pits with anger or sorrow. The mood can neither be pinpointed nor precisely explicated, but guess who is trying to do just that against all odds? Yep.


As usual, artwork and design are envisioned and realized by Daniel Castrejón.


It is usually a good sign when an album’s opener – any album’s opener really – not only prepares the listener for the things to come, but encapsulates these very things right from the beginning, resulting in a tangible gateway to, onto and into the surface structures of the endemic textures. Carroll Avenue is this kind of kick-off, offering an epiphany that is not instantly graspable, but retrojected time and again as the album progresses. Rolling along in the gestalt of cylon-esque prong scythes coated in low frequency plasticizers, said avenue is not exactly a verdured place, but within its boundaries, Derek Rogers manages to balance things out between the scraggy antediluvian space pads and their mellower bass peritoneum, a feat that runs as a golden thread through the intrinsic intermixture. The follow-up Visual Echoes might be a mere interlude, but is still important enough to serve as the eponymous base for the album title. Oscillating between warped ethereality, bent frequency flutters and hexangular sine pulses, the title track is at times emaciated, but these notions might accidentally confuse the presented aeriform lightness with an asthenic physiognomy. Since its lactalbumin levels increase, the threshold to mellifluous superfluids is almost passed.


An oneiric mirage instead of a desiccate wasteland: welcome to Post-Earthquake Silverlake and its faux-apocalyptic ploy which is a tomfoolery enclosed in an apocryphal title, for the soundscape itself is gorgeous. Clocking in at almost twelve minutes, Rogers unites the argentine legato washes as spawned by the majestic synth nebulae with a cautious dawn chorus that is at the frontmost position. Reminiscent of a 70’s New Age photometry, deliberately benthic thanks to its viscid pentatonicism, the artist from Los Angeles goes all-in on the harmonies, letting the sustain of the silvery surfaces cover the otherwise soothing silence. During some instances, the frequency range of the plateau increases in clarity, creating a protruding lavabo that towers above the rectilinear reticulation… and always centered in the matutinal multiplex: the birds. Leaving the solemn-somnolent effulgence behind, Ovoid pulsates, plinks and shuttles in an arcane antrum, no pun intended. The track shies away from the two-minute mark, but is given enough time to carve out the juxtaposition of heterodyned convulsions with crescent cannelures, their respective states being held together by a clandestine chroma cloudlet that flickers and rinses until the viscoelastic cauldron expires.


While the antecedent quartet of sparklers sported titles of mystique and chlorotic aureoles, it seems as if Derek Rogers tightens the grip within the realms of the last two tracks, and this grip is leading to crossroads: does the pressure make the listener more aware of the real reality, or does the asphyxiation process cause a drifting stasis? The first possibility of the two is definitely delineated in the track titles that are more precise and less prosaic than before: You Don’t Think In Terms Of Trains cannot hide an insulting insinuation, but is probably more akin to a pitying head-shaking. The attached sound waves, however, are feisty, voluminous and amplified, making the 10+ minutes supercharged with ecclesiastic eclecticism, supernal sinews and granular genuflections. A proper track of the Drone genre at its heart, some clever stereo panning makes the arrangement unstable, as if it were to schlep itself forward into an insecure future… which is then ameliorated by the churchly callisthenics. As I’ve said, Derek Rogers purposefully offers crossroads, and whether the aura is perceived as delightful or dark is up to the listener. The apotheosis and endpoint is reached when No Harm, No Foul is running, an ophidian stokehold basement complete with cauterized clangs, chime chimeras, heating circulation pumps and helicoidal wind gusts. This is a cesspool alright, a mephitic mélange, but due to the cute music box in the epicenter, the artificial metalization and synesthetic smell turn into the aforementioned epiphany… if the listener is willed to absorb the saltatory soothingness in-between the tumular turmoil.


Visual Echoes showcases that even without the help of an oscillator, one can see the sound. Naturally, it helps if one is keen on the amalgamation of Drone, Glitch and a pinch of New Age, for this is exactly what Derek Rogers has outlined in this album. The insistence on machines, steam pipes and glittering sparks is not necessarily feasible of revving up euphony, let alone euphoria, but these static artifacts are important constituents to the maintenance of the aesthetics. Coupled with rumbling basslines, spiced with short vestibules that lead to imminent outlooks onto nature, and graced with the willful translucency that allows harmonies in major to enter after all, Visual Echoes is a melting pot of contrapuntal coruscation. At times blurred, then shaken with clarity before resembling the search for the right path via the careful simulation of droning reels, Derek Roger’s artifact is maybe just that: a tape. The artist does not reveal the meaningful meaning, there is no truthful truth. The consistency, though, with which he appends the textures and reintroduces cavernous vaults and their big machineries make this a stringent effort. The actual coup de main, however, is based on the tendency that all of these notions are evoked by comparatively short tracks below the threshold of three minutes! Call them interludes, vignettes or segues – I approve all three of these terms – if you wish, their enigmatic dreaminess is superimposed over and onto the main titles. Since it is the latter that bring in melodious mélanges, Visual Echoes is not that experimental or remote a rascal, especially not when nature is oozing in through the cracks and rifts. Which it does.


Further listening: 

  • You can stream and purchase Visual Echoes at Bandcamp or turn sour attention to one of its distributors which are Thrill Jockey and Morr Music
  • Derek Rogers and Umor Rex Records are on Twitter: @jerome_231 and @UmorRex.


Ambient Review 377: Derek Rogers – Visual Echoes (2014). Originally published on Sep. 24, 2014 at