Pages of Stone: Adrift, Absent (Open Soul Surgery, 2011)
There are moments when one is introduced to the work of an artist and that artist’s work just envelops you like a soundtrack playing through your current life. I was introduced to Pages of Stone by Zac Winterwood and I instantly knew I had been introduced to something special. Drone artists, of course, have a special place in my listening repertoire. I am drawn to the lack of form and the utter rebellion against fitting into templates, time signatures, and mainstream expectations. I am attracted to longform, patient pieces that utilize textures as a means of drawing the listener in and, with Pages of Stone, I have found something that is all these things and more. Since downloading Adrift, Absent, I have gone only a day or two without listening to some or all of it. It is magical, entrancing, and deeply, deeply engaging. This album, dare I say, moves me.
“Pale Moon” rises as the album begins, with a deep drone increasing in volume: two notes of a space traveler altering back and forth. Pops dot the soundscape as the heartbeat of the evening pulses. It is an all-to-brief opening, but it does cast a spell on the listener as “Ember to Stardust” begins. Here is a sense of solitude, with rolling drones and cascading bright tones. The drone is populated with amazing textures that leap and play around its constant flow. As the track reaches its center, particles dance and calm the mind. It’s a glorious moment on the entirety of the album. “Momentary Contact” cranks and lurches into a throbbing, heavy throated drone that pulls back to pulse and wheel about. Almost machine-like with organic edges, “Momentary Contact” briefly erupts and then fades into a whirling, sonic cry before fading.
“Frozen, Falling” moves the listener into a dream-state. Soft buzzing floats along a river of dreamy, languid tones that are interrupted by louder fuzz and metal, hinge like squeaks. An organ fills out the wider void and the fuzz returns to cast its spell. As it closes, a wind blows through the speakers as ghostly apparitions moan and yearn, as if a story were about to unfold. “Hilltop Mist” evokes said story, with a lightly introduced melody floating in a dense, time-defying wave of sound. Sci-fi in it’s feel and cinematic at its core, “Hilltop Mist” invites the listener to see and hear their own imaginative story unfold.
“Symphony of Passing Clouds” rolls in with a patient, double layered drone. Light and airy coupled with a deeper, soaring sound, the listener floats along in the next chapter of the sound journey. The drones swell into a crackling madness as if to explode then fall once again into serenity. As they peal away, more layers are exposed. This track is also super dynamic, playing with volume in very effective and stark ways. “Absence, Intermittent” is a brief track that has the feeling of breaking out into an Aphex Twin moment but never quite goes over that cliff. It is pure dreamscape and so lovely. “Remembrance from a Slumber” rounds out the album with retro synth vibes and mist like tones that wash over the listener. Opaque and beautifully layered, “Remembrance from a Slumber” is a perfect finale for this exquisite album. It is a controlled chaos, a tumult of deep abiding sounds, a tornado of fury and yet the eye of calmness.
Adrift, Absent is a masterpiece of ambient construction and patient drones. The subtle choices are captivating and the textural choices superb. Pages of Stone hasn’t released anything since this album as far as I can tell and it is an utter shame. This has currently moved into my top 10 all-time favorite drone albums and I cannot say enough about how enthralled I have been with it as I’ve sat with it for more than a week. It’s too bad I had to encountered so it long after its release. I highly recommend everyone go get a copy especially since it is pay what you want at the label’s Bandcamp.
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