Nagual – ‘Nagual’ [Review]

nagualcover2The first LP of drones by Nagual is also the last release you can count on one hand by Ergot Records. Having kicked-off with a vinyl reissue of Dilloway’s ‘Corpse on Horseback’, the label seems to defy convention to do what it wants, which is excellent.  In the current microclimate of underground music, just releasing a drone LP is tantamount to doing what you want. And that’s a shame, considering the wealth of top practitioners in this hard-to-die genre. Ohio’s Nagual (Ian McColm and David Shapiro) would seem to fit this mold, constructing their long-form pieces from guitars and electronics in the Fripp/Frith avant-style of Table of the Elements and Erstwhile.  Largely loop-derived, the two A-side tracks “Honey River Lacquer” and “Sweat Raag” buzz and swarm with melodic ornaments over thick chords of drone. Dramatic and essentially sinister, it’s as if they extracted only the most malevolent distortions from Terry Riley’s dervishes into a negative image of new age faithfulness. The transition from “Laquer” to “Raag” is smooth, though the initial coupling is an illusion achieved by a mix of capacious electroacoustic organicism and surface edits upon mastering; the illusion is broke when the latter begins to ascend sharply, strings scream like passing traffic, and in the last moments, McColm enters with a technical pummeling of drums in rolling staccato. This profound stylization of violence is a rare exception in such long-form work, and in effect multiplies the modality of listening to this dronal wall. The form, though not the percussion itself, is quoted to begin the second side and final track, “Continuous Becoming”: as if aware that this new modality would melt away in the face of wall-to-wall drone on an opposite side of the disc – like getting lost in the many sides of SotL’s ‘Tired Sounds of’ 3LP – the punctuation in front takes-on tone the way a ship in the sky might take-on air, drifting away instead of down. The warm, whole tones feature little texture but begin to variegate as seams appear on either end of emerging loops. With a whistle the ship departs along a perfect line of audition sending no signal of returning to the havoc of the disc’s other half. 300 copies on black vinyl. Recommended.

Ergot Records LP