Black Thread
Autumn Flowers






Winter Ambient is the style to beat: there’s a wealth of new releases every year, it’s a crowded field. The other seasons don’t enjoy the same amount of devotion, although the increasing twilight in autumn is a Dark Ambient aficionado’s natural antidote to the same old snowscapes and glaciers. Enter Black Thread aka San Francisco-based Greg Gorlen and runner of the Turmeric Magnitudes label whose two-track tape Autumn Flowers is released in December 2014 on Invisible City Records from Gateshead, UK. It comes in a limited edition of 30 copies that can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp. While Invisible City Records shouldn’t be reduced to a dedicated Hauntology or Dark Ambient label, there is indeed no better way to break that restricting spell than Autumn Flowers, although the first glimpse might suggest otherwise. The artwork looks grim and stern, the black and white photography with its scratches – no claw marks please – induces a cold microcosm. The two movements, however, are actually much more balanced, prone to carve out the interstices where sustain, sound and silence, light and darkness, cotyledons and decay meet. Greg Gorlen’s processed guitar drones are downright mellifluous more often than not, carefully harassed by hydrazine propulsions, static prongs and violent vesicles. Throughout its runtime, Autumn Flowers showcases Black Thread’s knowledge of graceful melodies, be they maudlin, enigmatic or remote. How does the autumnal verve translate into music, and what could be the principal hub or node between Turmeric Magnitudes and Invisible City Records? I’m trying to approximate some answers below.


Autumn Flowers I introduces the listener to Greg Gorlen’s scraggy-caustic aesthetics… or serves as a corroboration thereof. Thinly veiled sine tones of the stringed or synthetic kinds unveil before a bokeh of nonentity. While the melodies are played in legato, there are micro-protrusions, incidental jitters and other punctilio oscillations that augment the fragility of the sequences; it’s autumn after all. Two additional alterations are of note: a certain granular moiré that purposefully annihilates the immersion or tangibility of the melody, and then the melody itself. Said moiré provides an aural semi-permeable wall where the floral efflorescence is allowed to shimmer through, whereas the heterodyned melodies provide a parallax hoarfrost whose crystalline beauty is far away from Dark Ambient and Hauntology cesspools… yet. As it turns out, the latter third of Black Thread’s polyfoil peritoneum revs up the noise level, be it via faultline rumblings or asbestus-covered guitar rivers. Even in this endmost stage, a certain benignancy or triumph cannot be denied.


Autumn Flowers II shares both the photometry and chromaticity with its next of kin from side A, causing a curiously cajoling gustatory aura throughout its runtime of eight and a half minutes. A frangible fadein phase invokes a strikingly glacial feeling. Whitewashed guitar fibers turn into prolonged caproic albumin molecules, their sinews coated in a subzero quilting. Darker undertones sound like a far-away harbor’s nucleus of metal, but the ensuing entanglement is yet again anything but soothing and withdrawn. Short pauses and accidental stutters cannot destroy the lachrymose euphony. In the greater scheme of things, it becomes clear that the eponymous flowers won’t survive the ubiquitous hibernal threat; however, the listening subject is lured by this argentine sanctuary and the glistening diffractions within. Beyond the track’s apex, Gorlen interpolates the blue illuminants with muffled drones, nebulous tributaries and violin-esque lavabos before the vanillarific permutation fades out… in order to come back for an appendix. Flimsier than ever, much more oneiric due to a reticulation of cloudy pink noise convulsions, the aural existence of the flowers ends abruptly, as is the case with reveries, pipe dreams and sudden catalepsies.


Autumn Flowers is a square capsule with the physiognomy of a tape that transfers the aesthetic aureoles and crackling cannelure of Greg Gorlen’s Turmeric Magnitudes label and injects these rhizomatic adjuvants into the catalog of Invisible City Records. The endeavor is noble, the iteration graspable, the result perversely languorous, as the outset of the tape paints a grim, destitute vision. As it turns out, though, anything’s lost in the endogenic realm of the flowers. In lieu of histrionic cataclysms and dark matter apocalypses, Black Thread uses the superimposition of processed guitars and a veil of subsequently alienating effects and frequencies to boost the dreaminess. Autumn Flowers is no mellow array of plants, but neither does it absorb the Gothic harshness of the artwork. The silver streams, chrome-covered peaks and encompassing silence are dangerous entities on their own; meshed in the physical and aural boundaries of Black Thread’s tape, they transform into a compatible braiding. Admonitory cataracts are still embedded, sudden bursts and earthquakes a given. These stylistic filters or layers never outshine the glimmering melodies, making Autumn Flowers a kind of epiphany in this regard. Greg Gorlen hasn’t turmoil and mayhem in mind, he spares both the listener and the flower and rather delineates a helical vestibule to surreal perceptions, no matter the grim foresight. Black Thread’s flowers aren’t perennial in the end, they are, however, an etiolated fugacity to cherish.


Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase and stream Autumn Flowers at Bandcamp
  • Inivisible City Records is on Twitter: @inviscityrecs.


Ambient Review 411: Black Thread – Autumn Flowers (2014). Originally published on Jan. 28, 2015 at