AMN Reviews: Ryan McGuire – Drukkna (2019; Painted Throat Music)

Bassist Ryan McGuire returns with this new release featuring himself on amplified contrabass, voices, samples, and other noises, with collaborator Dktr Teeth (not the muppet I assume…) on percussion. Across seven tracks, McGuire explores the extremes of his main instrument, employing extended techniques, feedback, and innovative bowing.

Each piece expresses itself in a different fashion. The underlying mechanisms include amplified walls of sound, rapid bowing, bouncing the bow across the bass’s strings, high-pitched squeaking, and slow drones. But the real character of Drukkna is the combination of these techniques with McGuire’s voice (consisting of tortured chants, moans, and screams) and other elements. The percussion is not constant but when present it is a clattering turmoil reminiscent of F.M. Einheit and does not rely on a drum kit. This results in an ominous feel that builds a dark tension throughout.

As with many releases of this nature, there is little or no emphasis on melody, harmony, or beat. Instead, Drukkna is an exploration of texture, structure, and layering. As such, it lands somewhere in the spectrum between free improv, drone, and noise. With it, McGuire has established a singular and remarkably enjoyable ear-bending offering. Bravo.

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