Though a lot of folks might consider drone and sound art to be the least musical music you could make, I often find that freaky experimental improvisers are the ones most knowledgeable and wide-ranging about all kinds of pop. It’s like they pushed so far into music nerddom that they popped out on the other side of the wormhole and then channel sounds from a musical bizarroverse.
Long Distance Poison member Casey Block’s playlists with East Village Radio should be proof enough of the huge musical appetite that underlies the band’s meditative drones. Likewise, member Nathan Cearley first began playing around with synths when he worked at a record store as a teenager and, “my boss got me into early Tangerine Dream and Popul Vuh and stuff. My youthful origins in drone music came about because my boss was a weird 70s prog guy and I listened to a lot of sludge metal.”
Casey, Nathan, and Erica Bradbury (armed with an arsenal of with massive vintage synths) are one of Brooklyn's best emerging drone bands. Their newest tape, "Gamma Graves," was just released on Ecstatic Peace. Long Distance Poison’s sound comes not from playing a melody on the keyboard but by manipulating the texture of individual tones over the course of time. Every sound in the physical world is composed of a massive amount of frequencies and pulling these frequencies apart and modulating the “partials” that make up a sound is Long Distance Poison’s route to anatomizing sound.
Deep listening concentrated on these partials unfolding over time is the key to LDP’s aesthetic. A few months ago, standing outside of the synth blowout that was this year’s Neon Marshmallow Festival, Nathan complained that a lot of the bands were burying really good synth work under a beat. This is a common tactic for sound artists – if you simply throw a beat behind your textural explorations, no matter how poorly sequenced that beat is, you’ll instantly get more heads nodding and pull a wider audience.
But for Nathan, this was taking everything good about the night's synth explorations away. The whole point of interest to him is that nothing is there to distract you from the subtle transitions of pure synthesis. Two of Cearley's major historical influences complained about the same thing - “Both Delia Derbyshire and Robert Moog expressed their regrets with the direction electronic music took in the 70s…that is, the enslavement of synthesis to rock and dance. I feel their pain today…just look, nine out of ten projects that use electronics for the electronics into the dancy or poppy formats…that’s sad, cause you can do pretty fucking much anything with synthesis. It’s like being offered the chance to go anywhere in the world by a genie and deciding to then go home.”
“Drone music is not about "playing" in the traditional sense, it’s more about learning when not to play. It is learning about how to compose from a single note via all the partial waves that constitute the note and can be modulated. There is more possible sound in a single sound than there is in a series of played notes.”
Here's a live vid of Long Distance Poison playing at the School House: