An unparalleled sound architect, Drew McDowall has surrounded himself with a trio of seasoned instrumentalists (double bass, violin, and harp), as well as a plethora of guest artists from diverse backgrounds.
The result is stunning. “Agalma I” opens and closes the album, in its return enhanced by the sublime vocals of Maralie Armstrong-Rial. Small impressionistic touches draw a weightless melody to which is added the gripping, almost oppressive basso continuo, whose tempo is disrupted like a music box. On “Amalga II”, the angelic presence of Caterini Barbieri, forming divine choruses, wrestles with the jerky music. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s upright and dignified voice becomes glaucous on “Agalma III”, where the incessant buzzing of the electronics eventually reignites the strings. He also performs on “Agalma IV”, a mixture of salvoes and static. “Agalma VII”, grandiose and dense, a veritable odyssey, combines the talents of the Saudi singer MSYLMA, the Egyptian producer Bashar Suleiman, and the Welsh improviser and sound artist Elvin Brandhi.
Although these quasi-theological sounds are unheard of in his personal discography, made up of ambient sounds skilfully sewn from industrial music, they can be compared to certain pieces from Coil’s repertoire, whether McDowall was participant (“A Cold Cell”, to name but one) or not (“Going Up”, which “Amalga I” is reminiscent of, in a disturbing way). Arvo Pärt also comes to mind. McDowall thus presents his version of the depths, made up of games of balance between anguish and contemplation. A cohesion emerges from these well-defined dualities.
This is undoubtedly the mature work we needed to elevate ourselves in these uncertain times.