Jon Porras – Light Divide
An electronic drone record for fans of stygian ambience, minimalist stylings or sci-fi dystopia
Jon Porras is best known as one half of Barn Owl, a Californian desert rock/ ambient duo who sculpt instrumental juggernauts of drone-heavy guitar menace. Until now his solo work has been variations on a similar style, but this third album under his own name sees Porras stepping away from the guitar entirely to experiment with some of the subtle electronic elements which have coloured Barn Owl's most recent releases.
The result is a record of muffled digital soundscapes which marry the atmosphere of those gloomy guitar symphonies with smooth, modern textures and heavily processed percussion (an element which rarely features in any of Porras' work). Opening tack 'Apeiron' is a vortex of glossy drones propelled by distorted percussive lashes which come and go, steering the track like a twisted erratic beat beamed from another dimension – it's fair to say there is a very potent sci-fi vibe at play here.
The consistent warping of sounds into such otherworldly essence builds subliminal tension throughout Light Divide and the vague distorted way that sounds float in from the ether provokes an uneasiness that strangles the relatively smooth surface. Swells of throbbing obfuscated bass on 'Divide' drip menace before subsiding abruptly – leaving a barren silence sporadically pierced by a dull metallic clattering which is even more daunting. Occasionally some semblance of energetic melody emerges but it's always resigned to the background, fighting to be heard – on 'Divide' the battle is with a persistent tapping which grows frantic enough to sound like the thud of footsteps running from the clouds of black noise gathering loudly overhead.
This is music which does require attention of its listener, because the most rewarding elements are not placed front and centre. Underneath the drone surface there are elements of trance and house music spliced up into tiny fragments and re-arranged into a translucent wall of sound – hearing those particles combining to briefly show something familiar is where this album really shines. Therein lies the admirable wealth of detail and the heart of the compelling conflict between dank atmosphere and sterile individual sounds. It's not for everyone, and at times those flashes can feel a bit too meagre, but for those with an appreciation for stygian ambience, minimalist stylings or sci-fi dystopia there is plenty to enjoy here.