Wolftöne – All That Falls

by 5:4

As usual, i’m going to start the new year, in deference to the festive season’s financial repercussions, by exploring a few interesting releases that are available free online. Wolftöne is the nom de guerre for Australian musician Keith W. Clancy, whose output to date is limited but, at its best, highly compelling. All That Falls is a 40-minute electronic piece released in late 2014. Like much of Clancy’s work, it brings to mind the music of Zbigniew Karkowski, in terms of both the raw nature of its materials and the fearsome / fearless way that they’re presented.

The opening minutes of the piece are an extended overture of buzzing drones, up close and in your face, their overtones ever in flux, continually recolouring and altering the timbre such that its surfaces glisten and ripple with the menacing sharpness of a razor blade. Here and there, in moments that feel like brief pseudo-reposes from this, we glimpse traces of something else, a band of noise perhaps, or the far-off movement of another, perhaps more agile, sonic element lurking at its core. But at this stage Clancy doesn’t indulge us with much more than these mere glimpses, and this is one of the aspects of his longer-form work that i find especially effective. There’s no sense of rush, no perceived need to move on quickly from idea to idea, nowhere to go from the unrelenting, though mesmerising, onslaught of sound.

The first significant change to All That Falls’ lengthy opening gambit doesn’t come until around ten minutes in, and then only in the form of a modest subsiding, the juddering razor moving back in the middleground, allowing new elements to be heard and grow more assertive. All the same, it’s hard to put into words exactly what these new elements are; more telling is their effect on the whole. The whole sound-mass starts to take on a new appearance, not remotely dronal anymore, now a complex, multi-faceted, large floating object not only the surface but also the very substance of which bristles and boils with unknowable quantities of small-scale activity and movement. It brings about a collapse, the pitch centres of the object falling and the music ticking over like a chainsaw, glowering and red hot. This moment is compounded by an abrupt moment of force akin to an implosion, after which more variants of semi-focused pitch push their way through the dense noise, forming toxic clouds.

A deep downward glissando descends so far that its frequency becomes a slow pulse through the work’s next section, moving through a gorgeous, acidic noise texture laden with inner detail. This soon becomes simplified into an undulating drone with electronic glitches firing off capriciously all around (bringing to mind the soundworld of Clancy’s also excellent shorter work Descent). This leads to the work’s most dramatic sequence where what loosely suggested certainty from before (drones, pulses) is lost in a mess of raw, wild stuff shot through with a harsh shuddering centre. Again, Clancy maintains this for a while, allowing the room and our body to physically shake.

The final section extends the work’s sense of perspective, opening out around two-thirds through into a simpler soundscape where the busyness dies back, defined now by sustained tones, though even here the intensity is maintained due to the piercing quality of these pitches. Increasing quantities of squelch in the midst of this create a fascinating equilibrium, the music writhing wildly while held in place as if caught in a tractor beam. When this equilibrium breaks, a huge swathe of almost impenetrable sound emerges, Clancy allowing nothing in particular to dominate for a while. This plays beautiful havoc with the ears and mind, constantly scouring for something to latch onto. All That Falls concludes with a kind of ‘static climax’, its sustained intensity suggesting the possibility of an imminent explosion. Yet what transpires is a new, more irregular pulse, possibly the catalyst – following some final extended bursts of burning incandescence – for everything else to fade away, improbably ending as a cycling beat pattern, floating into the distance.

All That Falls is available as a free download via Bandcamp.

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Keith W Clancy

I am literally overjoyed by this review Simon. Your review almost articulates the thoughts I have while making a piece. A lot of the sounds are actually that final “loop” sped up and mutilated (I still have that Stockhausen-derived thing of “laying out my materials” at a certain point in a piece). Thank you so much. I am still making work, there is a huge project on its way that is entirely “beat-driven” (“The Reimann Hypothesis” is the working title)

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