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Getting Acquainted with Head Dress and His Garden of Emotive, Abrasive Ambient

by Angel S.

A few months ago, Ted James Butler, the mastermind behind the Head Dress moniker (and the amazing tape-only podcast Norelco Mori), promised he would be returning to his techno roots. However, his summer release Garden, which is one of the most recent additions to the catalog of Belgium-based tape imprint Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere., still operates within the boundaries of abrasive ambient drone. Just like all tapes from the summer Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere. batch (find some already reviewed on Heathen Harvest), it doesn’t disappoint.

Ted James Butler

Garden moves on its own majestic pace. It’s divided in four chapters, which feel quite different from each other. The tape starts from an almost ambient noise-wall blast. It’s built from heavily breathing hiss and massive rumbling lows against which are struggling cold synths. Everything peaks into thick layers of delayed feedback. ‘Garden II’ sees Butler at his ambient best. The pads are distant, delicate, and inviting. The layers are reduced to the necessary minimum. They don’t easily let you go. Instead, they keep you focused so you can discover and participate in the music and not be just its mere observer.

The third part of the album is a monolithic act of low-end worship that develops over the course of twenty-plus minutes. It’s a marathon of a composition that leaves your mind feeling as if it’s been trapped within thick walls of stone. It will successfully shake the introverted against their outside reality, portrayed within Garden by barely surfacing melodies and atmospheres. Surprisingly enough, being trapped in this deep ambient stasis doesn’t feel terrifying. It’s actually comforting and calming. The track somehow reminds me of Jason Hoffman‘s brilliant ‘atonset‘ or the ambient depths of Juno Reactor‘s Luciana. Head Dress has saved the horrors for the closing chapter of Garden. It’s grittier, darker, and more frightening than expected, and that’s okay. I guess some gardens remain closed at night for a reason.

Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere.