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In These Days Of Merriment

In These Days Of Merriment
(Cuba Club Media)

Instead of setting up shop in some hip town like New York or London, Hollydrift seems like he might be the antithesis of a dark electronic musician. Calling Middleton, Wisconsin his place of residence, Mathias Anderson has been creating his blend of rather unsettling music for some time now, surrounding himself with a bevy of old tape recorders, signal receivers, synths, and other instruments. Of course, those who have found themselves in the plains (or the high plains of Middleton), know that come wintertime, there probably aren't many better places for inspiration. Winds sweep down from the frozen north as snow sometimes piles up so high that it would keep you trapped in your house for the better part of a week if you didn't have the motivation or means to leave.

As a musician, Hollydrift seems to have tapped into this strange feelings of desolation, as he mixes found sounds with melodies, and scraps of conversations with oddly off-kilter loops of radio blips. Imagine a scene where you're trapped in your house in the dead of one of these storms, all the power is out and the only transmissions you receive are on a ratty transistor radio that already has it's reception hampered by conditions. The wind is howling outside, and the only means to quell it somewhat is to play an old crank music box that has grown more and more warped with age.

The recording starts and ends with a minute-long patchwork of spoken samples, none of which have any particular significance in regards to the recording, but set the mood. "Donner Pass" carries on the eerie feel, beginning with a slowed-down soup of vocals before a couple different layers of drones layer in. Like the title suggests, it's rather cold sounding, with even a distant piano taking on an eerie edge. "Rattle In The Sky" follows up with one of the best tracks on the disc, with subtle layers of static and creepy disembodied vocals counting off coordinates while a hazy melody drifts in occassionally.

Athough the music never gets too loud or goes for cheap scares, "Floating On The Bellcross" takes on the harshest tone of any tracks, moving along with a grinding beat and more subtle vocal sample work. At times, the vocal cutups don't work quite as well (such as on the beginning played-then-reversed snippets on "Wizard Of The Dell"), but most of the time Anderson knows how to place things for maximum value. Despite the one track, there isn't a whole lot of structure to the disc in terms of rhythm, but if you're looking for ambient with a slight off-kilter edge, you could definitely find worse. He also proves that a more desolate landscape can be just as good of inspiration as a bustling metropolis one.

Rating: 6.75