I want you to ask yourself what loneliness sounds like. What do you imagine? Pianos in a minor key? The lonely indifferent strums of a distorted bass echoing in the skull? Now amplify your loneliness. You’re not in a box, nor stranded on a desert island. You’re adrift in the cosmos. We never learned what happened to Major Tom after ground control lost him, but if I had to guess what his journey sounded like, it would be Drum Dynasty’s ambient masterpiece Time Machine. A whopping 20 track sonic journey, this cinematic sounding venture comes courtesy of Seattle-based drummer Bruce Burgess who teams up with Ambient Composer Michael Carroll and executive produced by Cyrus Rhodes.
Do not let its genre description deceive you, though describing it as Ambient is accurate on a binary musical terminology sequence, sometimes this album is anything but peaceful, never jarring but a sense of uneasiness is always present, like something out of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. It unfolds in a dry, naked simplicity acting as a wonderfully sharp contrast to an age of so little room for silence and subtly in popular music. While the title Time Machine is apt as most of the album conveys a sense of nostalgia for times lost, this record is a minimalist yet sprawling sci-fi tinged epic. Each track blends seamlessly into the next, never jarring you or baiting you into a false sense of security. It’s incredibly meticulous in its orchestration blending the cool ambiance of a cold but gorgeous texture with Burgess’ at times energetic or understated percussion.
RELATED ARTICLE ON DRUMMER BRUCE BURGESS: https://www.moderndrummer.com/2008/08/bruce-burgess/
The visuals that you can imagine with this album can be helped with knowing the titles of each track, wonderfully indicative of the narrative being spun, but knowing the names aren’t necessary as far as conjuring vivid visuals across this cinematic journey. I say cinematic for the expansive nature of the sounds, but also because Time Machine often feels like the best score to a film that doesn’t exist. Whereas many ambient albums have an issue of pacing, sometimes swirling together in a way that makes it feel like one long track devoid of peaks and valleys, there’s plenty of distinct differences and characteristics in the tracks. “Supernova is the first break from the opening claustrophobic rhythms, but still retains its unsettling mood even as it kicks into something with a quicker tempo, with an almost chant-like quality to it.
“Seven Sisters” has this intentional quizzical disjointedness to it like you’re trapped in a maze with no way out. One of the highlights for me was the groovy “March of the Mutants” with its almost record scratching backing elements, feeling like your witnessing something both amazing and slightly disturbing. ‘Mutants’ even purposefully stumble in their instrumentation, as though you’ve been discovered by some enemy or foreign species. Nostalgia is incredibly present in tracks like “Electric Eye” with its cityscape sampling reminding you of the lonely nostalgia as you float amongst the stars, the electric pitter-patter and startup noises acting as a juxtaposition of where you were, versus where you are as those samples fade away temporarily as a stark reminder.
Going back to the film score comparison, it very much feels like a beautiful combination of the calming yet off-putting instrumentals of Radiohead, Antoni Sanchez’s beautiful often improvised drumming on the score for the 2013 film Birdman, and even reminded me of the fear I had playing the video game Silent Hill 2 with its unnerving ambient score by Akira Yamoaka. Those comparisons are more to say if you’re a fan of work of that variety, this album will scratch an itch not felt since those aforementioned work, while never being indebted to in a derivative way. This is a wholly unique vision, made more captivating by this pairing of Burgess and Carroll as Drum Dynasty switches composers album to album. I truly hope there is a reunion between the two whether it’s another album or a handful of single releases because the complementary nature of the two is nothing short of astounding.
At a staggering 20 tracks, sometimes it can feel a bit exhausting as I’m sure is intentional to reflect the full journey its imagined protagonist ventures on, but it’s a highly rewarding journey leading to the thrilling “Black Hole” which feels like a chance to escape the void for someplace new, if not a chance to get away from the beautiful misery of loneliness. The lengths and depths of emotional journey and catharsis on this record will linger long after it’s over, as the album ends with “Pale Blue Dot” which almost acts as the credits song to this, quietly reminding us of the various beats (no pun intended) of this journey as it sends you calmly back to reality with a “post-credit” sting that I dare won’t spoil.
In an age where music often feels like “content” generated to fill time, it’s wonderful to be reminded of pure vision and the desire to tell stories, even when some don’t carry lyrics to spell out how you’re supposed to feel. Time Machine is like looking into the void, and the sensations unearthed when the Void blinks back.
Wyatt Kennedy, posted by Mindy McCall
Donate to IndiePulse Music Magazine’s Academic and Music Education Scholarship Program HeartBeat4Kids
IndiePulse Music Magazine creates Scholarships to help Youth In Need of assistance to complete their educational goals and stay in school.