Off Land
(Drone Variations) Vol. II






Ambient ≠ Drone (Or: Drone Is The Message)

Drone Variations Vol. II is the second constituent of a planned three-volume series of alternative versions and reworked B-sides by Boston-based Ambient/Drone artist Tim Dwyer aka Off Land. This volume is specifically dedicated to 2013’s Tidewater Pulse, released on Keith Downey’s Psychonavigation Records. Drone Variations Vol. II meanwhile is self-released by the artist in November 2015, comprises nine tracks and can be streamed and purchased at Off Land’s Bandcamp page. As the concept of the three-volume series and the focus on iterations and reworks suggests, this work is specifically made for the fans of Off Land. The way these tracks appear on the remix album maybe was not meant to be, or else these outings would have been the original mixes after all. Then again, this is most certainly not just a compendium of recycled chromodynamics. In fact, the avulsions and estuaries presented in these mixes make for comprehensible alternative views onto the originals. The track titles remain the same, but they now appear in brackets to signify the alteration. The intention is freely given away by the artist: ”These drone variation mixes take the original tracks and re-work them to create a deeper sound experience.” At the same time, they come with a price: reduction. Nowadays, Ambient and Drone are either mixed up or willfully entangled, and nobody is to blame really. Tim Dwyer has a stricter policy regarding Drone that goes back to the original – most often guitar-based – quiltings of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Not much shall divert or distract the listener. The purified core must be aurally visible at all times. Here, then, is a closer look at three of the nine tracks and Off Land’s approach and strategy as I perceive them. 


(Permafrost): Holarctic Diffeomorphism 

Beyond the periglacial carapace of Permafrost, there’s a core of alkaliphilic aurum to be found and be fond of. The original off 2013’s Tidewater Pulse is a solemn, somewhat reducibly majestic beam of gelid cerulean hue whose sinewed synth stacks are held together by a laid-back 4/4 rhythm with echoey shards of silver. Its original physiognomy is that of a Drone track already, but slowly meandering, with an omnipresent glissando of halftone steps and iterations. On Drone Variations Vol. II, the formerly seventh track Permafrost turns to (Permafrost) and gains the opening spot. The first easily spottable alteration is the omission of the beats; no matter their wispy mellowness, they are certainly too pulsatile and alive for the new version. This has to do with the second, more important shift in timbre, and with it comes a shift in temperature as well. The main aorta sports the same melody, even identical compounds and textures, but it is now less pectiniform, more monoclinic, icy and forlorn. Since the beats aren’t available to caulk the metaphorical ebb and flow of the melody, every temporary fadeout increases the impression of bleakness. The nucleus of the tone sequences, however, remains potentially thermal, it could even be seen as a tantamount antagonistic and certainly electropositive device. Now it’s up to the listener – as always – to absorb the correct notion.


(Pictures): Biocentric Micrometry Without Glitters 

Originally, Pictures is the sixth track to materialize on Permafrost, and it is certainly one of the catchiest pieces Tim Dwyer has injected there due to the crystalline purity of the three-note piano pericarp that iridesces through the tawny proscenium. The adjacent phytoliths are of a grainy hapticity and allow for a complementing parallax orography. The incarnation that appears on Drone Variations Vol. II sees Off Land ostracizing the beautiful piano protrusions, and indeed, I can sense one possible reason for their omission, as the listening subject is now allowed to dive deep into the paraphyletic trait that is shared between both mixes: the droning veil. Said veil is much reduced in (Pictures), and with this reduction comes an increase in colchicine-alloyed amiability. Now that the signature three-note motif is gone and the drones are more volatile and brittle, one can gain access to a welcome cathexis by soaking up and incorporating the more soothing, withdrawn appearance of the track, especially so since the melodic center hasn’t suffered at all. It is just the cave pearls, helictites and icicles that had to vanish in order to make room for the centriole.


(Wait): Iconoclasm Postponed, Cenobitism Maintained

The duo of Wait and (Wait) belongs closely together, and it is here where the original shimmers through in the rework at all times, with changes so subtle that the inclusion of the way (Wait) is presented on Drone Variations Vol. II could indeed be questioned. But the idea of the original version as encapsulated in its runtime of over five minutes is that of a Drone track already, and in lieu of strengthening the baroclinic boundaries, Off Land goes for the angular momentum. The ancestor Wait comprises a lilting telomere awash with diaphanous beams of light as well as incidental interstices and intermediate gaps; coupled with a sequence of icosahedral emeralds and agglutinated plinking fractals, the period of waiting was exquisitely versatile and entertaining. Maybe this impression – if it is even close to the truth, that is – is considered as a potential little flaw by Tim Dwyer? The fact is that the iteration called (Wait) is now even more focused on the wraithlike silk but lacks the formerly rotoscoping oxidants and muons. Even though the remix is clocking in at four minutes, time seems to be elasticized and then frozen. Neither testing nor detesting the listener’s will to, well, appropriately wait, (Wait) backs inherits all the qualities of the original, and now that the fluttering, fluid-processed micro protuberances are gone, time is but a stream of consciousness, a multinucleate plateau regardless.


Zero Tolerance Against Interference

The basic gist of Drone Variations Vol. II is, if you will, the focus on Off Land’s main attraction which he intendedly places in all of his Ambient productions: the droning layers. This comes as no surprise, a peek at the title tells you the truth in seconds. But what this focus also constitutes is the purposeful lack of the several calcareous ornaments, crystalline ancillary routes and cryovolcanic macronutrients that grace Dwyer’s original, official albums which house the master mixes. These arrays of tidbits, polymers and ions ennoble the circumambience and amend a track’s proselytizing epicenter further. Their disappearance from the surroundings that are endemic to Drone Variations Vol. II is therefore the actual trait and signature element: zero tolerance against interference, a concentration on the actual aorta, placenta or base frame is the artistic masterstroke of this album. There is, as far as I can tell, no additional afterglow, magnetotail or chromophore added to any track; this is an endeavor that comprises of things to be taken away. With this notion, surprisingly enough, come the aforementioned shifts in temperature and benignancy. When Off Land takes things away, the track should feel emaciated, thinned or at worst even insubstantial, but nothing like that happens. Warmth enters instead, once the spikes, shards and ventricles turn into plateaued ventiducts where thermal heat is allowed to enter more often than not. And this leads to an exciting prospect for fans of Off Land who know the original versions and want to experience new viewpoints about the amniotic drone.


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 459: Off Land – (Drone Variations) Vol. II (2015). Originally published on Nov. 11, 2015 at