Soon to be released debut album of Sundrugs with Hidden Senses on the BLWBCK label.
With an opener named “Pandora’s Box”, something magical is going to happen, you just know it. And so Hidden Scenes emerges from the darkness in a simpering wash of piercing drones that expand painfully to introduce the album, opening the box to the secrets within. Almost immediately “Moving Borders” begins to take us into new and darker directions now that the box has been opened, weaving layers of dense drone into a spine-tingling, continuously evolving fabric of sound that is at once both restless and undisturbed, like the almost imperceptible passage or motion of distant objects even at speed, the slow creep of hundreds of miles seen overhead from afar.
It’s easy to see why these Sundrugs is on the BLWBCK label with “Void’s Anatomy”, a track that holds incredible similarity to Saåad’s style of music with its pained, almost human, drone wails, these creepy pulses of carefully engineered sound that almost breathe with life float in and out of the mix. “Radio Depth” is an obtrusive and somewhat unwelcome breach at first, abruptly terminating the previous track with the squeals of a radio being tuned, throwing disjointed fragments of transmissions out before slipping quickly into something much less sonically obtrusive.
In fact, going back a little, “If You Call That Living” features the aforementioned French Drone duo Saåad and it’s nice to see a reinforcement of the sonic style continue as the dark and heavily processed wave samples crash slowly and mightily and the drones remain somewhat on the dark side of neutral. “Desert Tales” removes those waves and has a much drier feel, its electronic overtones somewhat more granular and grating that the smooth, sleek, dark drones of before, the original guitar sound peeking through the oscillating distortion and giving us some ground through the swirling whines and high notes towards the end.
“You Know That Place” clocks in at a mighty 12:51, easily the longest track of the album, and it’s a curious piece. It retains the same basic fingerprint in its vaguely coarse drone pulses but there is something more reminiscent of Stars of the Lid here in its peacefulness and carefully repetitious melodies, the soft swells of drone easing the barely moving underlying textures along. It has that same perfect nostalgia and feelings of yearning that SotL distill in their work but Sundrugs manages to almost make it more beautiful and precious, leaving behind that pining sensation and instead languishing in the still bright and fresh memories. “Euphoria Euthanasia” brings us back into more familiar territory and if anything slows the pace down even further as the tone takes a turn for the somber; whilst its drones are far too bright to be miserable the speed and general attitude just give it a conscientious and introspective vibe.
And so we progress into the final movements of the record with “Just Leave Your Backdoor Open”, an oddly thin yet rich track that pares back the number of textures to a sparse few wavering drones before doing some odd processing in the second half which creates (to me at least) a rather disorientating and enveloping atmosphere through its stereo effects. Lastly, closer “Warm Like December’s Sun” manages to live up to its name as we float ghostly through its similarly thin, bright drones in the closing moments of the album.
It’s a curious record from start to finish I think, but the more I sit down and really pay close attention the less I actually want to say about it. I was previously content with letting it spin out easily for its 40 or so minutes, not quite being able to put my finger on what exactly I found comforting and soothing with it, and while looking at it more intensely hasnt lessened my enjoyment of it somehow I did actually find myself somewhat bored by the end. It’s vaguely disappointing that the best parts of this album are those that seem to emulate the styles of other artists but it’s still a very decent album in its own right.