ROBERT STOKOWY – Room 135

Pan y Rosas

The tireless Keith Helt sends out promotional material on a regular basis, making the music issued on his Pan y Rosas label available both online and for free download. Besides thanking Mr. Helt for all this, on this occasion we rejoice for having discovered an artist for whom this writer’s eyes and ears will remain wide open in the future.

Robert Stokowy – a German based in Chicago – summarizes his approach to an essential use of sound thus: “an interdisciplinary tool to understand one’s environment and the human condition”. Nothing else to be added for me, it’s just perfect. In particular, this is a 57-minute piece whose ineffable resounding intensity was influenced by the recording locations (also starring a lonely faraway cricket appearing as a reverberant soloist every once in a while), in addition to standard instruments whose native timbre was presumably altered in some way.

No words of mine can prepare you for the nerve-numbing cloud, greyish yet full of subsurface colors, which will affect many hours of your impermanent lucidity (believe me, you’ll need to repeat the experience over and over). An ever-resonant yet tight-lipped presence, the intuition of shapes and volumes through a blanket of fog, the emergence of extended harmonics and conspicuous pulses pushing our perceptual apparatus beyond the usual levels of mere listening. A vibration comparable, to an extent, to the infinite soundwaves elicited by Klaus Wiese’s manipulations of singing bowls, but with a well-defined urban character. Think solitude in unknown neighborhoods, absolute desolation illuminated by the first lights of a damp dawn.

The more I listen to this, the better I acknowledge the consequences of its functional nuances on the psychophysical machinery. The deepening of Stokowy’s output, at this point, becomes crucial: his Bandcamp page includes a large number of pieces to treasure. In any case, no problem if you start here: Room 135 is one of the best releases in the field of “environmentally droning” soundscapes in recent years. Whatever the core of the drones in question.

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