(New Album Review) Damian Valles- Strand

Damian Valles is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist and sound artist whose work has long intrigued me. Through guitar, percussion, field-recordings and mind-bending sound design, he can guide you on an acousmatic trip that can be at turns alarming and awestruck. Moreover, similarly to characters like David Newman and Rutger Zuydervelt, his treatments are so immersive and radical that he can often bring you into a alien sonic world. A lot of distance gets put between the source material and the textures that result, and so the lines get blurred, the origins become unclear, and you’re left with something truly mind-manifesting and gripping. His new album for the fine French label VoxxoV, Strand, might be his strongest yet, as well as undoubtedly his darkest.

Strand is bleak stuff– a night bleached monochrome, punctuated with shattering bolts of lightning. There’s less guitar here– it’s all dingy feedback loops and clanging marches. As pieces like “Cause of Motion” and “Shift Work” pull you under their spell, the heady, tribalistic atmosphere recalls Rapoon, Faust, and possible Canadian forebear Alan Bloor all at once. Oppressive bonfires rage on in the acrid air, the landscape around you wickedly transforming before your very eyes. We’re left finally with the final uneasy spurts and glowing drone of “Clay Body / Salt Body”– the cathartic ritual is done, and all we’re left with is the charred remains. A totally bracing and savage dark ambient album and essential listening of the year, to be sure.

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