Darsombra is the ambient drone project of Brian Daniloski of noise rockers Meatjack. He uses a mixture of layered guitar effects and ambient soundscapes to create tripped out experimental sound sculptures. It’s all very minimalist, and minimalism is a tough field in which to excel. In theory the creation of ambient and drone music ought to be straightforward enough; there’s rarely much need for high levels of musicianship. The truth is, however, that whilst writing ambient drone music itself is very easy, writing ambient drone music that anyone wants to listen to is extremely hard. Making your own compositions stand out from the crowd is even harder. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is differentiating your material from itself, making it so that every composition has its own distinct identity.
Darsombra’s Climax Community manages all of these things. Across three tracks and forty five minutes Daniloski conjures up alien landscapes and voyages through inner space with an almost infuriating ease. This is music to savour slowly whilst smashed off your face, high as a kite or simply very tired. It’s testament to what can be achieved with a single guitar and voice and a whole stack of effects pedals. Fans of psychedelia and bands like Sunn0))), Boris, Earth and Esoteric may find Darsombra particularly enticing. Daniloski is drinking the same Kool-Aid but freaking out in a very different direction.
Climax Community opens with ‘Roaming the Periphery’. Low guitar tones fade ominously in and out whilst a reverb drenched voice provides a counterpoint of wordless arabesques that soar over the throbbing guitar. Gradually the voice fades away and the guitars grow denser, the pulsing tones feeding back and stretching out. Something almost like a melody creeps in only to transform into a layered drone with a repeating two chord motif underneath. The drones twist into a kind of lazy, drugged out guitar solo of sorts before the song begins a long slow collapse back towards absolute minimalism. The whole track expands to fill 23 minutes without really going anywhere but I’ve never found that it dragged.
The tracks that follow are perhaps not as interesting or dense as that gigantic opener. Middle track ‘Green’ is a simple repetitive acoustic number that weighs in at just four minutes. It essentially does little other than cleanse the drone palette by playing with some simple melodies and rhythms. The final track ‘Thunder Thighs’ brings a sitar sound into the mix and is strongly redolent of 60s psychedelia. It noodles about for a few minutes before suddenly mutating in a chugging doom riff over which another tripped out guitar solo drifts. More convolutions and layering of sound are explored over the final 15 minutes of the track and the album.
Darsombra are necessarily going to have a limited appeal, as Climax Community is the very essence of a niche release. I really like it. It’s a clever, dense and hypnotic release that demonstrates that there’s still plenty of exploration to be done in experimental and psychedelic music. My only quibble is that the album would have been even more satisfying if the second track had been omitted entirely which would have allowed the opener and the closer to be more clearly contrasted with each other.