Sometimes, the definition of the word “music” is in the eye of the beholder. This is certainly the case with Hollydrift, the moniker chosen by musical artist Mathias Anderson of Wisconsin. On Waiting for the Tiller, Hollydrift explores the possibilities of noise, fusing together disparate sounds and samples to create a sonic journey that is unnerving and thought-provoking. What results is a listening experience that is fascinating, stretching, chilling, and ultimately redeeming.
But, be forewarned, the average music listener would hesitate to call the tracks found on Waiting for the Tiller “music”, as Hollydrift utilizes noise without melody and few harmonics to build the structure of the tracks. Take for instance, “Lakeshore Skycue”, which starts out with a buzz that sounds like a cross between a guitar and a chainsaw, only to halt as a computer voice random statements amidst a foundation of odd sound-bytes. The song then takes another turn, offering the listener a few minutes of a peaceful but dense drone. The drone fades out, leaving only the distant rumblings of feedback. Likewise, “Ghost From Third Grade” opens with a chilling drone anchored in a roar of mournful feedback and washes of sound. The song builds to a huge crescendo, only to have the feedback dissipate, leaving the drone dismembered and fragmented. “Haven of Rest” sounds vaguely reminiscent of Charity Empressa’s “Give ‘Em Hell”, with its loud, airy feedback and almost violent samples. This approach to the music is repeated in other tracks like “Dark is Only Hours Away” and “From an Old Horizon”, which feature strange drones and samples coordinated together to create tracks of disturbing noise. All of the tracks are recorded with a mix that draws the listener into Hollydrift’s world of dissonance, almost forcing the listener to become part of the random sounds.
Yet, as arbitrary as the compositions on Waiting for the Tiller may sound upon first listen, the songs are not aimlessly contrived, as Hollydrift puts a great amount of thought and care into his recordings. He chooses his sounds carefully, with a plan to communicate through his disparate sounds the struggles of humanity. The whole tone Hollydrift’s work is eerie, unsettling, fragmented, leaving the listener to ruminate on their feelings of isolation and automation in this strange world they live in. As he writes:
“However, I’m sure you have noticed that if you simply scratch the surface, it’s there. The fear is there, the isolation. The disconnection from what real life must be and what it once was. Or could have been. Or could be now. This is me. What you hear. This is me. And to those of you with beating hearts I know you and I love you.”
Heady stuff? Sure. A little over the top? Perhaps in the eyes of some. However, Waiting for the Tiller remains a compelling listen, one that challenges the prevalent notions of music, communication, and art. For this reason, Waiting for the Tiller is recommended for lovers of the noise-minimalist subgenre and for listeners looking for a totally different approach to music.