Hope is the latest-latest official release from Former Selves, his follow up to the beautiful DVD Fait Accompli from earlier this year, also on Bridgetown. I haven’t heard the Build tape yet that Byron Hayes glowingly awarded a 9/10 rating to just a few days ago, but Mr. Hayes mentioned that the release found examples of Paul Skomsvold weaning his sound away from the drones found on Hope turning toward more melodic territory. In my experience with Hope, however, this feels like the most melodically charged music I’ve heard Skomsvold produce on tape yet. Sure, things get generally droned out in beautiful passages of pastoral synth, smooth seas of electronics painted in mellow colors and planing themselves gently across the sonic palate. You know, great drone. But these seem more like pillowy platforms upon which Skomvsvold can create melodically centered pieces—mere vehicles for his true compositional prowess to shine through. It’s hard to miss the plodding keyboards that map out actual chord progressions for some of the works, or the glittery piano lines way in the upper register gently and slowly plunking out their beautiful melodies either. So drone, melodic; yes, melodic-drone this is, and it is some damned beautiful melodic-drone.
One thing that sets Former Selves apart is his pacing and structure. Instead of using a limited set of source loops to affect and manipulate over extended periods of time, Skomsvold refuses to sit still, moving through a bevy of instrumental parts on each track while keeping the works shorter. This is drone that is efficient—motifs are announced, repeated, looped and effected, but then quickly (and discreetly) make way for more and more addendum material (melodies, further drones) to be added on top. It’s a constant wax-effect as previous loops fall gently into the background, slowly building up a solid substructure for each track. And it should be noted that none of this is to say the music is rushed by any means—far from it in fact. Rather, Hope has a careful and graceful sense of progression to it as pieces somehow move swiftly without feeling cramped or hurried—Skomsvold creates the illusion of length while keeping everything magically compact and manageable. I also enjoy that the actual sounds on the tape are largely left unambiguous. Keyboard, guitar, piano, etc: I can hear these instruments, and I can hear Skomsvold playing them, which gives the artist a connection to his music missing in a lot of drone material—musicians distancing themselves from the music, hiding behind artifice and mystery. All told, it’s a style, and one that Skomsvold really owns and shows a command for on this short-ish tape (it’s actually double A-sided). It is also a style I’m curious (hopeful) to see if he continues to explore with future releases.