It’s been what feels like a long day. That’s perhaps not necessarily true but something about packing up my belongings even for a relatively short stay at home and subsequently migrating back there seems to be extremely draining. And that’s all for a journey that’s just over a mile; a first world problem if ever I heard one. And that brings me down at last to Daniel Klag’s new album, a welcome reprieve from today’s somewhat busy schedule, even if perhaps its subject matter is somewhat alienating. Inspired by an Argentinian short story about Arabian and Babylonian kings called “The Two Kings And The Two Labyrinths” , Klag weaves a delicately spun fabric of careful drone ambient to emulate those fictional labyrinths.
We open to the longest track of the album “Lost By The Encroaching Of The Sea”, arriving on genteel waves of distorted guitar, essentially the primary and sole instrument of the record. Rising from an uneasy and lonely initial silence, these onlapping currents of quivering sound are every bit as dry and vast as those the story sets itself in, the only hint of water being the ghostly mirages that flutter in the heat haze that coats the horizon, a distant and unreachable dream, filling the soundstage with tired and resigned longing. And it continues, on and on, with a cool, emotionless relentlessness, never stopping and never wavering in its dessicated vista until finally we can bear no more and it bows out to “Mirror Head Memory”. Not much has changed between the two tracks, it must be said; the guitar is still ever present and not to dissimilar in its presentation, but something has fundamentally changed in its attitude. It’s stronger now, more variable than before and louder, peaking in juddering climaxes and warbling into brief troughs. But there is something of a maximalist and oppressive edge to this track that wasn’t present before as the textures build and grind their way over one another, an endless eternal sea of vaguely crushing guitar drones.
“Twin Labyrinths, Twin Gates” is perhaps more suggestive in its title than the other tracks thus far; for every way into a labyrinth, whether that be physical or otherwise, there must correspondingly be a way out of it, a means of escape. It’s much sweeter and softer than its precursor, and it would seem this is where the vibraphone samples come into the mix with pulses of delicate sound underpinning the rather more abrasive but nonetheless downtrodden treated guitar. There’s a certain quiet optimism to the piece that’s rather endearing. It morphs easily into followup “Hundreds, Thousands”, a track which cruises from slow beginnings into a full-fledged piece as the shy wafts of low-key drone are overtaken by the obliterating growls of the guitar rising up from their ranks, dissent taking its course through this, the shortest of the album’s 5 works. Thoughts tumble and spiral around and into one another as it picks up steam, the initial seed of doubt propagating into a torrent of sound.
Finally the beautiful “A Bird Fully Extended” ebbs into view and once more it appears we lapse into a kind of fugue as the pace is crushed for the last time and the same sparse atmospheres that we summoned in the opener are brought back to life in the slowly revolving but barely evolving guitar drones that materialise and dematerialise effortlessly. The cyclicity is every bit as easy and as regular as a lazy vulture riding the thermals, flapping gently as it spirals above, watching its prey slowly succumb below it as its hope drips away and the last dregs of life force slip.
Like his previous album Inner Earth, Klag once more presents an album that’s concerned about our innerspace, our headspace, and what runs through it. As he says in his email: “the labyrinths need not be physical”, and how true this is as we explore the endless, vaguely tortured, void of Twin Labyrinths. There’s an open ended air of mystery and impressionable drone that spans to the edge of our imagination, but it’s a depressing and lifeless desert that’s filled with self-doubt, confusion and insecurity in the menacing and thrumming guitar. It’s easygoing listening without a doubt, I’ve enjoyed cooling down with this album, but at the same time it’s brimming with emotion and Swiss-cheesed with holes ready for your interpretations to fill. At 31 minutes, I cant think of a better, nicely bitesized album to explore such bigger concepts.