by Mike O’Brien
“The river that flows, the wind that blows
As above, so below,
—Rob Fisk, Liner Notes of Uhuulda
Experimental music, especially in the drone genre, can be a difficult format to create even for the long initiated, and even more difficult still to create well. There is an expectation, almost from the outset, that works tagged and marketed as “drone” inherently contain nothing more than under-performed, one or two-key presentation. It’s as if a cloud of perceived laziness hangs over a good number of projects in this vein; thus, with some preconceptions, I entered into the task of writing this article for Common Eider, King Eider‘s Uhuulda.
The immediate slow-build, long-form opening track grabs one’s attention and instantly holds. There is a depth to “Denning” that is impossible to explain. The track is quite simple, contains fair repetition, and uses sparse instrumentation. That grouping aside, it’s the depth of the track’s stated ambience that is of note. It crawls from deep down, lighting its darkness upward, tendrils up and out, filling the spectrum created in harmonious beauty.
Continuing the trend while growing the depth and expanse, “Entrance to the Sky, Entrance to the Land” swirls and resounds, echoing almost like the call of the eider duck in the thick mists of the Icelandic coasts.
Side two begins with “Pulsing Blood and Spit”: a groaning, effulgent call to the darkness. Vocals are present, watery, and limbic, spoken more than sung, lilting slightly in the entwining atmospheres. Unfortunately, they are also quite indecipherable though I can only assume they are possessed by the words included in the cassette liner jacket. There is an eerie, almost esoteric quality to the mixing of sounds here; they are nearly ritualistic among the natural feel and echoes, at the same time organic and like home.
Feeding a growing crepuscular ambience, the album finishes with “Dedication to Scarlet Earth”: an unfortunately short track devoid of the “big finish” I would have expected though mysterious indeed. The album builds over the first two tracks and hits its apex with track three, losing steam rapidly in the final stretch of an otherwise excellent work. Perhaps my own expectations are higher than normal, but I really hoped for a more climactic, or at least fitting finish.
Regardless of the quality of its end, Uhuulda as a whole shows great care and attention by Rob Fisk, Andee Connors, Andrew Weathers, and Blaine Todd. Short and dramatic, crushing and empty. the work asks its audience to take multiple listens, to meditate on the sounds, to immerse themselves fully in the experience. A casual listen won’t give you the full weight of the album, and I find that to be the most endearing sign of success from any album and any artist. This one will be revisited again as time passes, with (hopefully) more mysteries to be revealed along the serpentine path.