Belgian guitarist/composer Jean D.L. has produced a follow-up to his well-received 2014 collection Early Nights. Like its predecessor, part two pulls together material produced over multiple years, in this case between 2011 and this year. We get solo pieces and collaborations with Sandrine Verstraete, Margaret Hermant and Rodrigo Fuentealba Palavicino.
Often described as an ambient artist, that label hardly does him justice. D.L. employs not just a variety of sounds, but a range of aesthetics that is just as likely to sooth as cause discomfort.
Early Nights part 2 opens with a one-minute piece entitled “Little Russia.” It is pure D.L. He plays his electric guitar slowly, allowing each note to resonate fully. The effect is calming, even as a kind of quiet tension builds. It’s difficult not to listen closely when you can’t imagine what comes next.
“Harry Malter” is the answer; one of D.L.’s more conventional drone pieces. Its contrast with the album’s opener demands even more careful attention. Presumably, the piece takes its name from the Belgian descendent of a famous German family of circus people. Harry Malter Family Park in Destelbergen, Belgium is designed to appeal most to children age 2 to 12. Harry and his daughter Sarah run it together.
After a second drone piece called “Benji,” the album turns in yet another direction. “Untitled track” and “Mistral” are both dark, atmospheric think pieces packed with tension. D.L.’s economical use of field recordings is a welcome addition.
The album’s major work is the 12-minute “Errant Bodies.” It creeps quietly to life, as though a small animal has climbed into your headphones and begun clawing at your ears. It wouldn’t be incorrect to describe this as another drone piece. But because it is a noise composition, the drone is a more organic, earthy noise. A mudslide perhaps, or an avalanche off in the distance. Toward the end, it takes another unexpected turn that I’ll let you discover for yourself. As is often the case with D.L.’s work, the surprises are a big part of the fun.
The Moderns, vols. 1 and 2, by Kevin Press are available exclusively from Amazon.