According to recent science the brain reacts to direct light, so anything shone inside the ear will have an effect on it in some small way. Whether the Italian duo of Luciano Maggiore and Francesco Brasini were aware of this when they set about making How To Increase Light In The Ear is unknown, but these two untitled tracks use long, high-pitched tones to drill holes to your lobes in a way that suggests they’re determined to be a part of any light/brain breakthrough that may or may not happen in the coming years. At twenty- and thirty-minutes long, these drones are designed to test the listener’s patience. At a surface level it might not seem that too much is happening; a barely perceptible wavering here, a gradual layering there. But (and this is recommended by the label), when listened to through headphones, a whole world of sonic minutiae opens up. Beneath the ear-piercing depths there are myriad tiny details.
Without something recognisably physical to ground them, such pure drones as these run the risk of becoming formless and untouchable, ghosting above and around the listener without ever making meaningful contact but the pops and crackles that burn holes in both of these pieces lend an aura of warm antiquity as well as keeping them ticking over. Even ‘I’, which is – outwardly at least – the most static of these tracks, has a gently seething underbelly. It’s opening moments, otherwise silent, allow for the distant thud of a musician taking position, which instantly places the music in a human realm. From that subtle vibration on it doesn’t matter how ear-bleeding the pitch gets or how long it’s stretched out for because the ability to picture the source as being worldly provides a certain amount of comfort and authenticity. Peripheral cricket scrapes clash and reproduce infinitely, reaching fever-pitch by the halfway point and eventually overwhelming the entire racket.
On the whole, ‘II’ is less damaging. It’s highest pitches are reached from the off and are shot around from ear-to-ear, ringing with the dull thickness of tuning forks. They die down soon enough, being towed under by a warping hum and the sad crackle of ancient vinyl. It’s carried off on a smoothish plane and when bass unexpectedly makes an appearance towards the end of it sets everything around it spinning rapidly like helicopter blades, providing a pleasingly nervous denouement to the CD after such subtle, patient build-up.