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Growing - Diptych Music Album Reviews

Across two long, imperceptibly evolving tracks, the veteran drone duo delivers a pair of luxuriant tonal sound baths.

As part of the Olympia punk scene in the late 1990s, Kevin Doria and Joe DeNardo knew how to make the most out of minimalism. Their two-decade about-face as Growing, from aggressive noise veterans to contemporary drone trailblazers, has stretched that rubric into some blissful territory. Formed in 2001, Growing began by taking the essential disembodiment of ambient music and—as their name hinted—fleshing it out. The dense drone sculptures and Earth-like amperage on albums like 2004’s Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light catered to doom heads and seekers of deep listening alike. Later albums such as Vision Swim veered off into a thousand different directions, but with Diptych, they return with focused vision, once again intent upon widening a portal to vast, amorphous worlds. 

Like their last LP, 2017’s Disorder, the album comprises two tracks of around 20 minutes apiece. The hulking body of treated guitars, oscillators, and modular synthesizers of opener “Variable Speeds” hits like an overture. Conjuring creases of light cast onto metallic strata, it’s a luxuriant tonal sound bath. Where fellow noise anatomists such as Tim Hecker and Ben Frost might opt for erosion, Growing’s mottled patterning around a single chord builds up and outwards, like tinted ribbon being swathed around a towering pylon.

Auditory illusions abound, especially on “Down + Distance.” Filtering slow, methodical organ reminiscent of Kali Malone (in this case, effect-heavy guitars) with the swarming depths of Loscil, ricochets of sound invoke everything from distant choral music to the faint drift of roadworks. It’s all imagined, of course, but their careful psychoacoustic interventions wonderfully disrupt even the thought of living in a noise-cancelling world.

The duo’s catalog on Bandcamp features an anomaly among more obvious genre tags: “living music.” You could be forgiven for assuming it to be some furtive scene, but it is—by virtue of their inputting it—Growing’s very own nanogenre. Tracing the naturalistic psychedelia of their Kranky years to the organic feel of Disorder, whose drawn-out tremolo feels like whole-body breathing, the term checks out. The duo’s live-wire ambient predated the advent of brainwave entrainment—tones and frequencies that some claim can induce sleep, focus, and maximum efficiency—and now, the immersive, subtly pulsing sedation of Diptych feels almost like the closing of a circle.

In 2006, DeNardo—who is also a filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer—spoke of the potential for discovery in the genre he and Doria continue to push forward. “Drone is one of those sounds that can communicate a lot of subtlety,” he said. “Pare everything down to one note and there’s a lot of harmonic ephemera.” The longer that note is sustained, the more details from the depths come to light. Fifteen years on, Diptych bears out the merits of that approach. By paring down and zooming in, it’s the most wide awake their living music has felt in years.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Growing - Diptych Music Album Reviews Growing - Diptych Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 Rating: 5

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