Thursday, January 12, 2012


I caught local duo Hierarchies at the Biltmore recently, performing a set (to far too few people) coaxed from various guitars, synths, and pedals. If it hadn’t been my first time seeing them, and if I hadn’t needed to get up close to see how they were creating this sound, I’d have laid back on one of the club’s plush benches and shut my eyes to soak it in. To label their music drone/ambient is too easy, and also unfair. Sure, the dynamic in these four tracks isn’t very jagged. I guess it’s droney. There’s no beats, no overt melody. Structure is defined by a track’s running length, or maybe a gradual shift in volume, as on the title track, where an overdriven hum rises over the course of four minutes, like a cluster of howling ghosts, before fading as previously buried spectral sounds swirl into the foreground. I don’t like the “ambient” part of the label, either, because it implies that the music isn’t designed to be listened to closely. Why would anyone spend time recording music that was meant to be ignored? Not these guys, obviously. There’s a lot of nuance and activity below the surface. Each track ripples like a pool of liquid electricity in an abandoned factory. What's most remarkable is how these sounds evoke the natural world while sounding like nothing out of nature. The effect is insistent and disquieting in its own subtle way.

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