Grant Stewart, who trades as Subterrene, employs sonic sleight-of-hand across the entirety of Bathetic Resonance. This is achieved in a variety of clandestine, albeit stunning, ways. Bathetic Resonance is, in fact, that rare jewel: a recording that on first spin (or two, or even three) fails to reveal its true stripes until the listener has effectively dug in, ignored all other outside stimuli, and surrendered themselves to its demands. Stewart requires nothing less than total commitment. Initial listens unveil a panoply of chugging noise, shifty atmospheric disturbances, quiescent meditative regions, a veritable bastardizing of rugged Eno-charred terrain that challenges your aural foibles. And therein lies Stewart's stealthy poise: he's able to convince the ear that, what on surface appears to be relatively basic instincts, are instead carefully teased patterns of future-shock evolutions.
Admittedly, it takes a minute or so to get there. Opener "Loveless" comes all over like Merzbow in hasty retreat, channeling six degrees of separation between the less aggressive drone creations of Akita and similar speakerfuzz like Robert Hampson's Main oracles or the more subdued shock and awe of Oren Ambarchi's surging chasms. It's a dreamy headrush, and part of Stewart's crafty m.o.; he feints quickly left only to come at you with a stiff, calculated right. "Tangential" and "Heliopause" damper the grunge further as they oscillate, riding bone-shuddering bass pulses that bob and feint amongst a forest of elegantly metallic rising thermals and sudden depth charges. As "Lowlight" commences, returning to a symphony of low siren waver and PBK-esque distortion blooms, it's obvious Stewart's heart lies in confrontation rather than complacency, less little fluffy clouds than ominous, pregnant mammatocumulus.
The fact that Stewart likes his 'ambient' coarse, prickly, and edgy demonstrates an artist not content with the hanging of so much aural wallpaper, nor is it the act of a minimalist equally happy forging infinite loops of monotonous decay. Bathetic Resonance is a slow-burner, etching moods of many colors with methodical grace and subtle ease, 'soundscaping' in the truest sense. Perhaps sound sculpting is more apropos, as what Stewart creates feels hand-forged, fingertip-dirty, muse splayed open. In a field littered with faceless doppelganger drift that tosses appellations about like so much confetti, this sharp-elbowed recording passes muster in noble fashion, and in doing so, possesses a singularity of vision leagues beyond its less talented brethren.
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