05 Jan 2023 - Stephan
Drone, Neo-Classical | Portraits GRM | Release date: 07 Jul 2022
Two souls alas! are dwelling in your breasts? One which yearns to prolong the contemplative part of winter solstice season? And the other one just wants things to be earth-shattering loud again? Luckily, music has specialized genres suited exactly for this dichotomy, offering soothing meditative qualities, yet also eagerly sending bone-pulverizing vibrations through your body - if you just turn the volume up high enough. And it’s one album in particular, already released about two weeks after summer solstice, which I want to entrust to you for this purpose now.
Living Torch is an instrumental release in two parts, which together add up to a playing time of 33 minutes and 33 seconds. (Do I always end up with this kind of number mysticism here?) And even though it is a signature feature of most of Kali Malone’s work, the sound permanently breathing and swelling at its bottom is not a pipe organ, as most listeners would surely assume. Instead the clerically droning soundscape built by the US composer / instrumentalist residing in Sweden is a mixture of artificial and organic elements, achieved with asine-wave generator and a classic 1970s modular synthesizer on one side, trombone and bass clarinet on the other and the Boîte à Bourdons, a kind of electrical hurdy-gurdy inspired by the Shruti Box right inbetween.
No matter if you understand Living Torch first and foremorst as a balancing act between Classical and Electronic composition or rather enjoy it untouched by those broader categorizations just for the deeply resonating ambient drone experience it is - it will probably never be the potential subject of hour-long music nerd party conversations. Because as much as this album has to offer on sonic substance, as much as it invites your soul to float with its slowly meandering notes; objectively there’s not too much happening here.
And that is fine. Because the art of a work like this lies in finding just the sufficient amount of overall action and spreading it so subtly that you only half actively hear it and rather purely feel the rest.
Since Malone doesn’t corner herself in specific subgenre mannerisms that would automatically alienate whole groups of listeners (such as for example O’Malleyian Drone Metal guitars, which are very much a part of her most recent three hours! album Does Spring Hide Its Joy, coming in January), Living Torch seems to be accessible from many angles and as a minimum only demands that you’re a patient listener. But even that hurdle doesn’t seem too high due to the rather short total length.
No matter if your interest stems from the perspective of Modern Classical or Soundtrack music or if you’re rather accustomed to the Klaus Schulze-Ambient tradition, this album waits for you. If your coming from Post Rock or Doom you can interpret Living Torch as a distillation of certain atmospheric parts of those genres. The easiest references coming to my mind however, the ones I would list if we had a “for fans of” specification above our reviews, are clearly Anna von Hausswolff (especially her pipe organ instrumental album All Thought Fly) and the Drone and Ambient works of Ulver. The use of wind instruments points especially to Terrestrials, the joint release with Sunn O))).
Purposefully-crafted, the frequencies and melodic rudiments of Living Torch are designed to resonate in one’s subconsciousness long after listening to it. And even though it came to me late in the year, I count this is among my favorite 2022 releases of its kind now, as one as the most powerful musical rechargers for inner tranquility.