Jeffry Astin’s Housecraft label had a spectacular 2008, planting its roots and earning a bevy of die-hard fans faster than Michael Phelps did with the Marijuana Reform Party. That Astin has managed to maintain momentum into the new year is an encouraging sign that 2009 will be just as sterling. This release, a split between Astin’s own Xiphiidae project and Madison improvisers Drunjus, is rife with fragile and airy drones that move with delicate tenacity over the entire course of the tape’s near hour-long journey.
The first side belongs to Drunjus, a duo comprised of Endless and Dan Woodman that also had a bustling 2008 release schedule. Here they continue their exploration of tree-lined drone structures with two lengthy pieces, “Chicomoztoc” and “Memogovissioois,” bound by a similarly stagnant sense of organic warmth. Vats of moss and dirt encrust everything here, caking each sound in a haze of static whose age might as well be determined by rings rather than minutes. This lack of horizontal movement and subsequent textural focus—sounds shifting softly beneath the fuzz of the cassette tape—displays a daring and patient collaborative effort whose careful concoctions are fragile without being the least bit dainty.
The flip side is Xiphiidae’s, whose similarly minded drone works had me thoroughly blown throughout last year. And this side, consisting of one untitled track, is no disappointment. Utilizing field recordings, vocals, tapes, and who knows what else, Astin again creates a unique and spacious sound that taps right into those hollow areas in your skull, filling them with gooey ectoplasm. Moving through static minefields and quivering tumbleweeds, the side displays the same tactile use of the medium as the Drunjus side, allowing the tape itself to do much of the work atop mini muffled melodies buried in the floor of some colossal grey forest just north of the inner eye.
Both sides slip right into one another, making this one to be flipped long into the night. There is a tactile, sensory quality to both of these artists that allows for them to explore sonic spaces whose views may be vast, but whose weight lies in the earth directly beneath their feet. This is music that implies the infinite as well as any drone can, but Drunjus and Xiphiidae don’t leave their backyard to find it. 8/10 -- Henry Smith (25 February, 2009)