A few months back, in one of those head-scratchingly great mainstream-meets-underground moments, Time Out Chicago
magazine ran a two page piece on the ?Chicago drone scene? under the inevitable headline ?Everybody Must Get Droned?. And while I know that the suggestive powers of print media aren?t nearly that strong, I still couldn?t help but fantasize about a mimvan full of bored suburbanites, lured by the magazine?s snarky captions and promises of nonstop adventure in the city, showing up at the Empty Bottle to catch a set by one of the artists mentioned and having their mind blown by the frightening and ever-expanding rhythmic pulse of the universe. (Although a more likely scenario would be something like my experience about a decade ago when I, in my charming naivet?, thought my future wife and her friends would enjoy spending a Friday evening catching a late-career set by a rumpled and droning John Fahey. Needless to say, the old master did not go over well.)
Interviewed prominently in the article were both Robert Lowe of Lichens and Matt Clark of White/Light, two of the three musicians who, along with Clark?s music partner Jeremy Lemos, make up White Lichens. Lowe is the best known of the trio thanks to his membership in the now-denfunct 90 Day Men and the part time role he plays in TV on the Radio. Lichens has been his main creative outlet over the past couple for years, and in May he released ?OMNS,? his second disc for Kranky. He?s also played out like crazy, opening for artists as diverse as Love as Laughter and OOIOO. Clark and Lemos, meanwhile, have released one great disc of Sunn-styled guitar soundscapes under the White/Light banner.
It?s hard to know exactly who contributed what here (the credits are no help), but the sound on ?White Lichens? more closely resembles the loud, rumbling tones of White/Light than it does the gently looped acoustic picking and haunted vocals of Lichens. While it never really trips over into hellish, the sound here is dense and dark. The disc opens with ?Cimejes, or Cimeies, or Kimares?, 19 minutes of keening and pulsating feedback that at points sounds like Tony Conrad?s work with Faust, minus the pounding rhythms. The next three tracks are all under five minutes and given the time-bending nature of the first track, come across more like sketches. They?re interesting, but not as essential. Things become suitable unmoored again with the last cut, ?Bael,? a sixteen minute cauldron of noise that most effectively evokes the collection of occult writings that make up the disc?s liner notes. There?s some powerful (and downright beautiful) stuff happening here, including the occasional appearance of a piano that most clearly belies Lowe?s influence. This does have the feel of a one-off project and I?ve enjoyed the stuff both parties make on their own more than what they?ve come up with here. Nevertheless, if Time Out
readers only buy one drone album this year, they could do worse than to bring home a copy of ?White Lichens?. 7/10 -- Scott Downing (19 June, 2007)