Danny Clay






Ganymede is an eight-track ice floe by Ohio-based artist Danny Clay, showcasing two intriguing poles and antipodes embedded within its glacial Glitch/Drone superstructure. Released in 2015 on Jonathan LeesHibernate Recordings in an edition of 100 CD’s and an unlimited amount of download versions available at Bandcamp as usual, Ganymede is a polysemous album, already emanating this heterodox approach qua its title: while the name usually refers to one of Jupiter’s moons, Clay doesn’t succumb to aeriform ornamentation, let alone histrionic synth layers that are found in Space Ambient works. Instead, Ganymede refers to – and actually interposes – the opening bars of Franz Schubert’s Ganymed, itself based on a text of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This and any other artistic approach, however, never feels forced. There is not one single incident where the listener considers him- or herself lost in the wake of a potential art house record; Clay’s methodology is more subtle. He basically ostracizes the concept of time from this intrinsic world, or at least approximates that endeavor as close as possible. Ganymede is made of two large chunks: a suite of six orthochromatic subcellular fissures called Glow which altogether oscillate between verglas vesicles and glaucous glints, followed by two cohesive long-form tracks that absorb the helicoidal halides and transform them into amniotic antra. The various spheres and safeguarding of interests is what make Ganymede so intriguing. Sine wave records, music boxes and pianos spawn the tonal elements of this record, but are they also the principal alluvial forces? Here’s a meticulous look deep into an eternity pestered by time.


Glow is the principal force of Ganymede’s perennial surfaces, divided into six coherent movements, containing several prismatic avulsions and polygonal molecules that maintain the polyfoil hoarfrost superfluid throughout the runtime. While Glow I serves as the gateway to this phylogenetic world and thus remains comparatively distant by caulking its glacial nucleus with a drone-based quilting of hexagonal mica and retrojected crackles, Glow II is much more diaphanous, awash with aureate lights that serve as plasticizers, warming the aural anhydride just fine; the languorous solace of the gracefully spiraling chimes, sine illuminants and bucolic bells works well within the enclosing peritoneum of pink noise. Glow III continues to serrate light with solid coldness by translating these contrapuntal concepts via particularly crinkling glitch iterations and vanillarific lavabo fibers. Their intercommunication functions as a viscose vestibule to the short fourth installment whose fragilely faraway titration comprises of toned-down syringa melodies and a high-chromaticity zoetrope of contiguous clicks. Glow V accedes and augments the blotchy reticulation even further, making it the liveliest part of the sextet: oneiric white frost susurrations become entangled with feisty punctilio protrusions, the latter of which tear down the invisible wall of reservation in order to erect a crystalline cannelure of coruscation. The sixth and final part overcomes this ctenidium-evoking state and finishes the suite with a majestic undercurrent of uplifting aureoles. Immensely effulgent, increasingly hazy, backed by incidental blebs, it is the opalescent endpoint to an alkaloidal suntrap.


Ganymede could well have ended at this point, for the good-natured, amicably uplifting finale of the Glow convocation has that positive yet multifaceted outlook many observers are still looking for in works of art. However, given the gargantuan dimensions of the additional two pieces, one eventually becomes aware that these cataracts are no mere appendixes but vital constituents that let the argentine rime ice prosper and grow yet again, contributing to the very state that was thought to be overcome in the last minutes of Glow. Within the 15+ minutes of Im Morgenglanze, Danny Clay tells the familiar story with a different set of patterns and textures. Gone is every trace of polyphony, let alone euphony. Instead, viscoelastic glitters, mucous catenae and benthic paroxysms are the primary forces, unfolding freely, (e)merging anew in front of a stokehold-like panorama of heating system circulation pumps, beguiling exhalations, annealed metalization tendrils and other somnolent afterglows. The ingredients are surprisingly industrial, the realization of their solid cores, however, is anything but cherubic. The unison of organic and apocryphal scintillae makes for a wondrously contemplative field recording. The album closes with the eponymous Ganymede which comprises of a journey of 28+ minutes. Right from the get-go it becomes clear that this is the antithesis to Im Morgenglanze, as celestial mallet instruments, gelid globs and semi-ligneous clicks unite in an annealed but ultimately epicurean apotheosis. Ganymede’s primary quality is the merciless maintenance of its soothing vortex: everything is presented in the first two minutes already, and this premature apex then serves as the angular point throughout the remaining runtime, simulating the atemporal state of ad infinitum as close as possible.


Danny Clay’s Ganymede is a wonderfully retrogressive affair, annihilating the classical concept of time in order to rest within itself, to remain withdrawn in the frosty gyre surrounding it. The technical prowess of using turntables, processing music boxes, picking up ground loops and re-recording the ripples of fugacity doesn’t refract from the actual arrangements and their inherent flow. This is no feature release carving out various precautions, convoluted setups or the artist’s inevitable eye for the smallest detail, no: all these things are fluently incorporated within the endemic erethism of Ganymede itself. The old but bona fide adage stating that "it is the music that counts" is the driving factor here. No matter how sophisticated the pool of instruments and the recording technique may seem, Danny Clay willfully blurs the lines, injects, ingrains and pours the spiraling cavalcades into a Glitch/Drone pericarp. There is room for gossamer crevasses and even the occasional ignis fatuus within this hibernal world. While all temporal boundaries are toned down as sufficiently as possible, Ganymede shows a kind of moxie that breaks the lush spell, especially so during the six-part Glow suite where every distinct movement – while stringent and harmonic – inherits motion and a sense of progression. As we all know, making progress is just a periphrasis for quality time used for improvements. As such, Glow improves mercilessly and powerfully until the planned parochial setting opens up for amethystine sunbeams. This is the way I would have liked the album to end, the clichéd cinematography of a golden Hollywood ending notwithstanding. Though it is also true that the final two pieces have to be included at all costs, for only they are able to encapsulate the timelessness, a circadian circuit made of caproic acids and inorganic ingredients. Despite its galactic name, Ganymede remains an earthbound polyhedron.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 416: Danny Clay – Ganymede (2015). Originally published on Feb. 18, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.